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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Update of Ulf Hedberg and Custody Case 

Below is the update of Ulf Hedberg, who works at Gallaudet Archives, in regards to the custody case in Maryland, involving his son as well as his partner, Blaise Delahoussaye.


Court Lifts Ruling That Forced Gay Couple To Split Up Over Child
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

March 28, 2006 - 3:00 pm ET

(Annapolis, Maryland) A Maryland court on Tuesday lifted a custody restriction prohibiting a gay father from residing with his life partner.

The court ruled that the restriction, which was imposed by a Virginia court, was harmful to Ulf Hedberg’s 13 year-old son.

The judge found that the child did not understand why his stepparent, Blaise Delahoussaye, was forced to move out of the family home and was upset and saddened by his absence.

“This is an important ruling which acknowledges the best interest of the child," said attorney Susan Silber who represented Hedberg.

"The Virginia custody order restricting the couple’s shared residence did not benefit the child, but instead harmed him,” said Silber.

The judge found that Delahoussaye, the father's partner, was a well-respected leader in the deaf/blind community, and a fit stepparent. The judge also found no evidence of any harm to the child that would be caused by Delahoussaye moving back into the family home.

Hedberg and his ex-wife, residents of Virginia at the time, separated when their son was four years old. For the next five-and-a-half years, the child lived with Hedberg and his partner, Blaise Delahoussaye, in a suburban Virginia home the couple purchased together.

The home had a back yard and was near a good school, Hedberg says. Together, the two men provided a stable loving home, he said.

After the boy's mother moved to Florida, she petitioned for custody. A Virginia court issued an order giving Hedberg physical custody of the boy but requiring Delahoussaye to move out of the family's home.

The Virginia court based its decision on that state's sodomy law, which was struck down, along with 12 others nationwide, in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2003.

In order to maintain two separate residences, the couple sold their house and moved into smaller apartments in Maryland.

Hedberg filed a petition to remove the custody restriction on the grounds that it had diminished the child's quality of life and deprived him of a stable two-parent home. A Maryland trial court initially denied Hedberg's request, holding that it had no authority to modify the order. In January, 2005, however, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on whether removing the restriction was in the child's best interest. Silber, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Lambda Legal represented Hedberg in the appeal. (story)

Tuesday's ruling came at the close of an evidentiary hearing in which Hedberg presented evidence about the negative impact of the restriction on his son and the child's positive relationship with Delahoussaye.

©365Gay.com 2006