The Court of Appeals issued a published decision in Stankevich v Milliron (Docket No. 310710), holding that, after the United States Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v Hodges, ___ US ___; 135 S Ct 2584; 192 L Ed 2d 609 (2015), same-sex couples who are married, in this state or others, may assert the equitable parent doctrine. The equitable parent doctrine allows a spouse who is not a biological parent of his or her spouse’s child but who has raised and formed a bond with the child to be treated as a parent after a divorce when it comes to, for example, visitation rights, if he or she desires to be treated as such and is willing to pay child support.
This holding is particularly important for same-sex couples, such as the one in this case, who enter into agreements or understandings and decide that one spouse will be artificially inseminated and have a child whom both spouses will love and raise together. The couple in Stankevich had married in Canada. Prior to Obergefell, the same-sex spouse who was not the biological parent had no standing to assert parental rights with respect to the couple’s child upon a divorce because same-sex marriages were not recognized in Michigan, and the equitable parent doctrine applies only to married couples. Indeed, this was the Court of Appeals’s holding in Stankevich v Milliron before Obergefell was released. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for reconsideration by the Court of Appeals after Obergefell, and the Court of Appeals issued its new decision, holding that the equitable parent doctrine does apply to protect the parent-child relationships of same-sex spouses who satisfy its requirements.