In a first of its kind ruling in New York, a Manhattan judge has given a couple who're just friends the green light to become legal co-parents to an adopted girl.
The pals identified, only as LEL and KAL, met in 2000 and have been close friends since, according to court papers.
Several years ago, KAL decided she wanted to become a mom, and LEL offered to be her sperm donor.
But when she couldn't get pregnant, they ‚Äúdecided to instead adopt a child together,‚ÄĚ the court papers say.
‚ÄúThey spent years planning and hoping‚ÄĚ for a child, and their dream came true in 2011, when KAL was able to adopt a child ‚ÄĒ identified as G. ‚ÄĒ from Ethiopia.
They traveled to Africa together to bring the baby home, but because they weren't married, only KAL was able to adopt, filings say.
When they returned to the U.S., the pair petitioned Manhattan Surrogate's Court to have LEL named as a second legal parent, even though they don't live together and are not romantically involved.
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Manhattan Surrogate's Court Judge Rita Mella ruled that a couple who are not romantically involved are legally allowed to adopt a baby, the first ruling of its kind in New York.
In a landmark ruling, Judge Rita Mella did so.
‚ÄúFrom the moment they met G,, more than two years ago now, KAL and LEL have functioned as her parents," the judge wrote in a decision from last month.
‚ÄúG. calls KAL ‚ÄėMommy‚Äô and LEL ‚ÄėDaddy,‚Äô‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúalthough they live in separate households,‚ÄĚ they ‚Äúhave created a nurturing family environment for G., including a well-thought-out, discussed and fluid method of sharing parenting responsibilities between their homes.‚ÄĚ
She splits time at LEL's house in Brooklyn and KAL's apartment in Manhattan, and they ‚Äúalso spend much time together as a family,‚ÄĚ even travelling together to visit each other's relatives, the ruling says.
G, ‚Äúa good-natured toddler and quick to laugh,‚ÄĚ transitions ‚Äúeasily and smoothly between her two homes‚ÄĚ and has ‚Äúgood relationships with LEL's domestic partner and KAL's housemate,‚ÄĚ the ruling says.
LEL argued that making him a legal second parent was in G.'s best interests, and would provide her with better health care and school options, and a more secure future.
Mella agreed, and used a 2010 state statute allowing ‚Äúintimate partners‚ÄĚ to adopt as a basis for allowing the couple‚Äôs the adoption to proceed, noting that the phrase can mean a close, long-term relationship.
She also cited the findings of the social worker who observed the family in action, and determined that ‚Äúeven though their relationship is not based on what many consider a traditional family, they exhibit a love and respect for one another and clearly cherish the family they have created.‚ÄĚ