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This is an interesting case! It is not often that there are rulings from a family law case in Maricopa County that leads to national headlines. However, on March 28, 2013, the Maricopa County Superior Court did just that when it ruled that a man, who was born a female and gave birth three times after receiving a birth certificate declaring him to be a man, could not divorce his wife.
In a very detailed and lengthy opinion, the court found that the parties failed to prove that they had a legally recognizable marriage under Arizona law. The full case opinion is In Re the Marriage of Thomas Beatie and Nancy J. Beatie, FC2012-051183.
Thomas, as stated above, was born a female. He began undergoing hormone treatments as part of a sex change to become a man, but abandoned such treatment before it would have eliminated his ability to bear or carry a child in his womb. He underwent a medical operation as part of his sex change, but it was revealed that the surgery was a double mastectomy. Thomas obtained a new birth certificate listing his sex as a male, but the court noted that Thomas never disclosed he would still have the ability to become pregnant. While Thomas presented an affidavit from one of his doctors explaining that he had undergone medical procedures, no discussion of the extent of those procedures was provided to the state issuing the new birth certificate.
After obtaining a new birth certificate listing his sex as a male, Thomas and Nancy married. They then went on to have three children, all carried by and born to Thomas.
The Maricopa County Superior Court denied the dissolution of the parties’ marriage, finding that they were never legally married and thus there was nothing to dissolve. In Arizona, a marriage [was] legally defined as being between a man and a woman [prior to October 17, 2014]. In deciding that Thomas was not a man, under a plain meaning of the term man, the only decision the court could make was that the marriage was not valid because it was not between a man and a woman.
Where does this leave Arizona? Almost certainly with the Arizona Court of Appeals hearing the case. In fact, there has already been a notice of appeal filed with the Arizona Court of Appeals. Will this case have an impact on same-sex marriages or cases involving couples cohabitating? In my opinion, it likely will not. This case involved a very narrow legal issue asking whether the marriage between Thomas and Nancy was valid under Arizona law. In deciding it was not, the court declined to accept either party’s arguments of social policy, instead focusing solely on interpreting the laws of Arizona. This begs the question then – had Thomas not born a child, would anyone have questioned the legitimacy of the birth certificate?
Family Law, Divorce and Same-Sex Legal Matters
Although the above case was a unique one, with the current recognition of same-sex marriage in the state of Arizona many still have questions regarding such matters. Consult with an experienced family law attorney that listens to your case and your needs. The attorneys of Duenas Eden Law we are experienced and trusted lawyers focusing on Family Law including; Same-Sex Legal Matters, Divorce, Child Custody Cases, Child Support, Spousal Support and other Family Law matters. We are Family Law Lawyers servicing Laveen, Ahwatukee, Tempe, Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert. Call today: (480) 285-1735.
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