No one keeps track of how many men or women commit suicide in the aftermath of a decidedly unjust child custody hearing outcome. In another situation that is becoming all-too-common amongst gay and lesbian couples who opt to become parents, when the relationship dissolves, the battle becomes over the child(ren). And when you’re dealing with a malicious, vindictive ex-partner who possesses the biggest weapon with which to continue to harm their ex, the child, the outcome is unsurprisingly the same as it is in heterosexual relationships – biological mom is favored in the overwhelming majority of cases.
From our perspective, this is a case of “be careful what you wish for” when it comes to gay/lesbian marital and parental rights. As we move forward in that arena in offering all people equal rights with regard to marriage and child bearing – never forget that in Family Court child custody proceedings, equal rights go right out the window most of the time. The gay and lesbian community now becomes a whole new source of revenue for divorce and family law attorneys, judges, child support collections and enforcement, and all of the other “hangers-on” who make their living within this money-making machine.
So, how does Debie Hackett fit into this equation? A very public situation that became so due to the worst possible outcome. Distraught over being shut-out of her child’s life completely by her ex-partner, Kim Ferris, and with the full force and assistance of Family Court, Debie Hackett took her own life. Undoubtedly, she is another in a long line of otherwise nameless and faceless victims who ended it all after being destroyed by Family Court and a heartless ex-partner. Debie Hackett killed herself on Christmas Eve 2010.
She took her child custody case to an appeals court and obtained the right to assert her parental rights, suing for parenting time. Remanded back to lower court, Hackett was denied all child custody and any visitation rights to her son. Effectively, Debie Hackett was cut entirely out of the child’s life – precisely the outcome Kim Ferris wanted.
David Taffet of The Dallas Voice brought what is likely an overlooked thought when it comes to gay and lesbian family relationships – wondering whether the application of the law that discounts same-sex relationships was the basis for the ruling and the ultimate demise of Debie Hackett.
From the Divorce & Family Law News Blog post Lesbian Mother Denied Visitation, Takes Life we read the background:
After knowing each other for 10 years, and being in a relationship for two years, Hackett and Kim Ferris decided to have a child together. They determined Ferris would bear the child, based on her age. Their son was conceived with sperm donated by Carlos Rojas, a gay man who both women had known for seven years. Before the child’s birth, Ferris wrote that she wanted Hackett to have “all the rights and responsibilities available in the state of Texas as a parent.”
Sadly, Ferris didn’t keep that commitment, and soon after ending her relationship with Hackett, she changed the baby’s name from Hackett-Ferris to Ferris. She also refused to allow Hackett to see the 11-month old child she had helped raise since birth. And she fought Hackett’s right in court, arguing that Texas law prohibits a non-biological parent from seeking the right of visitation.
It seems doubtless that the underlying problem with this particular situation is that the laws of Texas governing child custody are applicable only to same-sex couples. Since this is a new frontier for family, child, and parental rights – there isn’t much in the way of case-law or other precedents within each individual state to make clear just how same-sex couples should be handled. We expect that this situation will be played out on a more regular and more public basis for years to come.
There were questionable issues with both parents, but none rose to the level of a complete elimination of one (or the other, for that matter) from the child’s life.
If you’re in a same-sex gay or lesbian relationship and considering adding children to your family dynamic, it behooves you to know the laws pertaining to child custody in your particular state. You may be surprised to find that if the baby didn’t come from your womb or that you otherwise have no biological ties to the baby – you don’t have any rights at all should the relationship become irretrievably broken.
It appears we have another nearly insurmountable roadblock on the road to true equality for all, but count on the Family Court System to exploit it for every dollar it can.