- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A woman who says she was a second mother to a child adopted by her domestic partner is entitled to visitation rights, but not custody, the Court of Special Appeals has ruled.

The court upheld a Baltimore County Circuit Court order granting the woman visitation rights as the de facto parent of a 7-year-old identified as Maya M.

The woman was identified in the court’s opinion as Margaret K. Her domestic partner was identified as Janice M.

The two women entered into a committed domestic relationship in 1987 and lived together for 17 years, according to court documents.

In 2000, they adopted an infant from India. Although both women had participated in the adoption process, only Janice M. was considered to be the child’s legal parent.

The women separated in 2004, agreeing that Janice M. would be Maya’s custodial parent, and that Margaret K. would have liberal visitation, according to the court record.

In 2005, Margaret K. filed petitions for custody and visitation, claiming she was being denied access to the child, though she “participated fully as the child’s parent.”

The court upheld Margaret K.’s visitation rights, but said there were no exceptional circumstances that would justify a change in custody.

Janice M.’s attorney, Cynthia Young, told the Baltimore Daily Record that the “exceptional circumstances” test should have applied to visitation as well.

Under the court’s reasoning, “anyone who’s lived in the household would be allowed to seek visitation if they fit the ‘de facto’ mold,” she said, adding that it was Janice M. who acted as the parent, making decisions regarding education and religion.

“Margaret was an occupant in the house [and] picked her up from school, but the same could be said for an au pair,” Miss Young said.

Jennifer Fairfax, who represented Margaret K., was pleased with the visitation decision.

“Every day for five years, Margaret K. was a parent to this child,” she said.

Miss Fairfax said she introduced evidence such as Mother’s Day cards from Janice M. and the child that referred to Margaret K. as the child’s second mother.

Miss Young said Janice M. is considering appealing the decision granting her ex-partner visitation rights.

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