by David Ashenfelter
Posted April 17, 2010
In a ruling that could have broad and precedent-setting legal consequences, a Downriver woman cleared the first hurdle Friday in her bid to get joint custody of three children she says she raised with the biological mother.
If the decision stands up on appeal, it would be the first time gays, lesbians and unmarried heterosexuals in Michigan would have legal standing to obtain joint custody.
“This is a historic moment, “ Renee Harmon’s lawyer, Dana Nessel, said Friday as her client’s supporters hugged and cheered Harmon outside Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen McCarthy’s court.
“Judge McCarthy’s ruling really ushers us into the 21st Century,” Nessel said.
McCarthy ruled Harmon’s request for parenting time with the children she and her ex-partner of 19 years, Tammy Davis, raised can proceed to a hearing July 21 to determine whether they had an agreement to share custody.”
If an agreement existed, which Harmon’s lawyers said they can easily prove, McCarthy likely will grant joint custody, the lawyers predicted.
Harmon, 48 of Trenton and Davis, 39 of Grosse Ile broke up in 2008. During the relationship, Davis had three children through artificial insemination. Harmon said she helped raise them and, in all respects, was a parent.
After the couple split, Harmon said, she had joint custody for 13 months until last September, when Davis’ new live-in partner told her she could no longer see the children.
Harmon forced her way into her former home, prompting Davis to obtain a personal protection order preventing Harmon from having any contact with Davis or the children.
Davis counters that Harmon was not a parent, the children don’t regard her as such, and that Harmon was abusive and has no legal right to joint custody because she is not their biological mother.
Currently, the only people who can petition for custody are biological parents, or the husband of the biological parents, or the husband of the biological mother if the child was born during their marriage.