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Case on behalf of a non-biological mother seeking shared custody and visitation rights with the child she has parented with her former same-sex partner.


Michele Hobbs and Kelly Mullen were in a committed relationship for five years and decided to have a child together. They agreed that Mullen would carry the child but that the women would rear their child as equal co-parents. In 2005, their daughter was born.

For the next two years, the couple cared for their daughter as equal co-parents, with Michele driving the child to and from day care, acting as the primary cook in the household and tending to their daughter when she was sick. Hobbs and Mullen shared all expenses related to the child’s care, including the in vitro fertilization process, day care and health care. The couple told their daughter, families and friends that they were both mothers.

In October 2007, Mullen and Hobbs decided to end their relationship, and Mullen moved out of their home with the couple’s daughter. She immediately denied Hobbs any contact with their daughter, and after two months, Hobbs filed a complaint for permanent shared custody of the child. The magistrate granted interim visitation and in December 2008, awarded Hobbs permanent shared custody of the child. Mullen appealed this decision, and in April 2009, the Juvenile Court overturned the magistrate’s decision, stating that because the couple had discussed, but never entered into, a written shared custody order, Mullen had never relinquished sole custody of the child. Lambda Legal immediately filed an appeal, but in December 2009, the appellate court upheld the decision to award sole custody of the child to Mullen.

    • December 2007 Michele Hobbs files motion for shared custody and is granted interim visitation.
    • December 2008 Magistrate grants permanent shared custody to Hobbs.
    • April 2009 Juvenile Court rejects the magistrate's decision and grants sole custody to Mullen; Lambda Legal immediately appeals.
    • December 2009 Appellate court upholds the juvenile court's decision to give sole custody to Mullen.
    • August 2010 Ohio Supreme Court accepts the case.
    • February 2011 Ohio Supreme Court oral arguments scheduled.
    • July 2011 Ohio Supreme Court rules 4-3 against Hobbs.