Wednesday, December 18, 2013

T.F. v. B.L. case brief

T.F. v. B.L. case brief summary
442 Mass. 522, 813 N.E.2d 1244 (2004)

In an action by plaintiff biological mother seeking child support from defendant former same-sex partner, after the Probate and Family Court Department, Hampshire (Massachusetts), reported a question to the Massachusetts Appeals Court regarding whether the existence of parenthood by contract was the law in Massachusetts, the court granted direct appellate review.

Throughout the parties' relationship, the mother had expressed interest in having a child. Eventually the partner agreed, and the two of them were involved in planning and expenditures associated with artificial insemination. Before the child was born, however, the partner had changed her mind about becoming a family, and the parties separated. The partner had never sought visitation and gave the mother money for the child only once.


  • The high court agreed with the trial court that sufficient evidence supported a finding of an implied contract to become a parent. 
  • It held, however, that such a contract was not enforceable because it violated the public policy of Massachusetts that did not recognize prior agreements to enter into familial relationships as subsequently enforceable. 
  • Moreover, an award of child support was not permissible in the exercise of a trial court's equity jurisdiction, either. 
  • Many Massachusetts statutes clearly identified who was a legal parent for purposes of having parental rights and responsibilities under Massachusetts law, and the partner did not fall into any of those categories. 
  • A court's equitable powers did not entitle it to disregard statutes.

The court answered the reported question in the negative and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

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