Two Ohio women who were formerly partners must share custody of their 8-year-old daughter, a judge has ruled.
Julie Ann Smith, the biological mother, called the decision to award shared custody her former partner, Julie Rose Rowell, “a gross injustice,” The Columbus Dispatch reports. She vowed to appeal the decision, rendered by a Franklin County magistrate last week. Rowell said she “couldn’t be happier” with the ruling.
Smith became pregnant via artificial insemination and gave birth to the girl, Maddie, in 2003. After the women’s relationship ended in 2008, Smith refused to let Rowell have any contact with Maddie, the Dispatch reports. Rowell responded by petitioning for partial custody.
In ruling for the shared custody arrangement, Magistrate Kathleen Knisely found that the evidence supports Rowell’s “testimony that she and Smith were life partners with an agreement to raise Maddie together. They do not support Smith’s assertions that Rowell was just a girlfriend/roommate and sometime baby sitter.” Rowell accompanied Smith for the insemination, doctor’s visits, and the delivery, and was her birthing coach, Knisely noted.
Smith told the Dispatch the ruling means “all single parents should be scared to death. It could happen to anyone.” However, Rowell said, “I’m most happy for my daughter. She gets to have both of her parents back, and she gets to have both of her families back.”
Photo: Julie Ann Smith (left), Julie Rose Rowell (right), The Columbus Dispatch