A gay man from New Jersey has won a custody battle in which his sister claimed parental rights over the twin 5 year-old girls she carried as a surrogate for him and his partner.
Same-sex couple Donald Robinson Hollingsworth and Sean Hollingsworth married in California and now live in Jersey City. Donald Hollingsworth’s sister Angelia Robinson, after falling on hard times and moving to be near her brother, agreed to serve as a surrogate for the couple and signed a contract to that effect. After it was discovered that Robinson’s eggs were not viable, she was implanted with stranger eggs fertilized by Sean Hollingsworth.
However, since the twins’ birth, things have soured between the Hollingsworths and Robinson, in part because of Robinson’s religious beliefs against homosexuality. The question of who should parent the children was raised and Robinson initially won a legal case to be declared the twins’ mother despite no direct biological claim. However, a Hudson County Superior Court judge last week overturned that ruling, affirming that the Hollingsworths should be granted full custody with Angelia Robinson allowed visitation rights.
The judge was keen to cut through the complexities of the case to the heart of the matter: the welfare of the two children.
“The parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the children is nonexistent here,” he wrote. “They hardly speak verbally to each other and there is little communication in writing. They disagree on what school the children should attend, what religion the children should be brought up in, and what they should be told about surrogacy, what they should be told about the gay lifestyle and there is uncertainty as to how the children will be instructed as to their biracial heritage.”
The judge said one thing was clear: “There can be no joint legal custody in this case.”
In court proceedings, the judge specifically noted the anti-gay views of both Robinson, who now lives in Middletown, and her mother — who cared for the children when her daughter was at work on days she had custody. In his ruling, he said while Robinson and her mother meant well, be believed “the inevitable would occur” in discussions with the children.
“Their strong feelings about surrogacy and homosexuality will be understood by the girls and will have a very damaging effect on them. It will make them feel ashamed of themselves.”
He said the stability of their lives in Jersey City, where they presently attend kindergarten, was also a factor. While he did not find any of the parties lacked parental fitness, he said the best interests of the children would be served by awarding custody to the father with visitation rights for the mother.
Robinson had claimed that, being dependent on her brother at the time, she was coerced into signing the legal contract. There was also a discrepancy over whether such a contract is even legally binding in New Jersey. However, the court found no evidence that Robinson had been unwilling to agree to the surrogacy when she entered into the contract.
Robinson is now said to be considering an appeal.
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