Court Grants Lesbian Mom Right To File For Paternity

Attorney: Case A Precedent For Gay Couples Who Break Up

Wendy Alfredsen said she’ll never forget the day she went to pick up her daughter from school only to find that the girl wasn’t there.

“My heart dropped,” Alfredsen said. “There were so many thoughts going through my mind.”

Alfredsen soon learned how stacked the law was against some gay parents.

In 2006, Alfredsen, and her then partner Lena Alfredsen, adopted two biological sisters, whom they had been foster parenting since 2004.

Because state law at the time allowed only one gay parent to sign adoption papers, Alfredsen signed the papers for one of the girls and Lena Alfredsen signed papers for the other.

That meant that legally, each woman was the parent of just one of the girls and could make all the decisions regarding that child.

Shortly after the couple broke up in 2009, Lena Alfredsen did just that. She took the younger girl to Norway.

Wendy Alfredsen said that was very traumatic for her and her other daughter.

“She didn’t get to say goodbye to her parent or sister,” the Colorado mom said. “How can that not damage a kid?”

Soon afterword, she decided to go to court.

“I think any parent would fight tooth and nail for their kids,” she said. “I didn’t know what contact I would have, what role I would play, especially not legally being her parent.”

But Alfredsen said she ran into one legal brick wall after another.

In the meantime, Colorado’s law had changed to allow both gay parents to sign adoption papers, but Alfredsen said the new law wasn’t retroactive. She said the only way she could legally become the other girl’s parent was if Lena signed off on it.

“That wasn’t going to happen,” Alfredsen said.

The Colorado mom didn’t give up.

Family law attorney Ann Gushurst suggested that Alfredsen file for paternity.

“Last summer a case came down that said you can hold yourself out as a parent under Title 19 and not be the biological parent,” Gushurst said. “I thought, well if a man can do it, surely a woman can do it.”

She said the court wasn’t happy about the motion and neither was Alfredsen’s ex.

“The other side filed a motion to dismiss,” Gushurst said. “But it was constitutional.”

The judge issued an order denying Lena Alfredsen’s motion to dismiss, essentially granting Wendy Alfredsen’s quest to claim paternity.

Soon afterward, both women entered into a stipulation granting each other maternity/paternity for both girls.

“It’s huge,” Gushurst said. “This has never happened in Colorado or in 48 other states.”

“It’s a huge milestone,” Alfredsen said. “We still have a ways to go but that piece is now out of the way. We’re both on equal footing as parents to both of our kids.”

Alfredsen said she doesn’t consider herself a trailblazer.

“I just did what any parent would do for their child,” she told 7NEWS. “But it does feel good to know that we’re making a change.”

“It means that we’re talking the first steps in realizing that children have rights to be with their parents,” Gushurst said. “We give a lot of lip service to the best interest of the child, but children don’t really have a legal standing in our court system.”

Gushurst added, “The law is changing to catch up with social reality, but it’s slow.”

Alfredsen said the judge will hold a hearing in June to determine parenting time and whether the younger sister’s residence will be in the U.S. or in Norway.

Alfredsen, who has traveled to Norway several times to see her adopted daughter, said the girl still considers her to be one of her moms.

"She always screams and jumps in my arms and says, 'Mommy I missed you and Mommy I love you,'" Alfredsen said. "It doesn’t matter the amount of time that’s passed."

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