D.M.T. v. T.M.H. - Part I

The Florida Supreme Court recently entered a ruling in a very unique case of first impression. The parents in this case are two women. The Florida Supreme Court identified them by their initials, D.M.T. v. T.M.H.. The lower Fifth District Court of Appeals case sets forth the facts of the case.

“The parents were involved in a committed relationship from 1995 until 2006. They lived together and owned real property as joint tenants, evidenced by a deed in the record. Additionally, both women deposited their income into a joint bank account and used those funds to pay their bills. The couple decided to have a baby that they would raise together as equal parental partners. They sought reproductive medical assistance, where they learned D.M.T. was infertile.
T.M.H. and D.M.T., using funds from their joint bank account, paid a reproductive doctor to withdraw ova from T.M.H., have them fertilized, and implant the fertilized ova into D.M.T.. The two women told the reproductive doctor that they intended to raise the child as a couple, and they went for counseling with a mental health professional to prepare themselves for parenthood. The in vitro fertilization procedure that was utilized proved successful, and a child was conceived.
The child was born in Brevard County on January 4, 2004. The couple gave the child a hyphenation of their last names. Although the birth certificate lists only [D.M.T.] as the mother and does not indicate a father, a maternity test revealed that there is a 99.99% certainty that [T.M.H.] is the biological mother of the child. [T.M.H.] and [D.M.T.] sent out birth announcements with both of their names declaring, “We Proudly Announce the Birth of Our Beautiful Daughter.” Both women participated at their child’s baptism, and they both took an active role in the child’s early education.
The women separated in May 2006, and the child lived with [D.M.T.]. Initially, [T.M.H.] made regular child support payments, which [D.M.T.] accepted. [T.M.H.] ended the support payments when she and [D.M.T.] agreed to divide the child’s time evenly between them. They continued to divide the costs of education.”

Unfortunately, the parties relationship ended and D.M.T. severed T.M.H.’s contact with the minor child. A law suit eventually ensued. T.M.H. saught to have her parental rights established, even though she was not the biological parent.

D.M.T. filed a motion for summary judgment in the trial court and argued that T.M.H. does not have proper legal grounds to seek parental rights. The trial court granted the motion and stated that it hoped T.M.H. appealed. T.M.H. appealed and the summary judgment was overturned by the Fifth District Court of Appeals. The Florida Supreme Court cases followed.

Part II will discuss the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling and analysis.