Cindy Close & Marvin McMurrey III: Here's One Weird-Ass Child Custody Case
When Cindy Close gave birth to twins last July, she thought she had finally achieved her lifelong dream of being a mother. The 47-year-old had gone about it in an unconventional way, she says, by using a friend's sperm and anonymous donor's eggs, with the ultimate goal of co-parenting the kid(s) with her friend.
But Close says that, shortly after she gave birth, that friend sought full custody of the babies, saying that Close was only a surrogate. Now Close and her friend, Marvin McMurrey III, are duking it out in Harris County Family Court.
According to Close, she briefly dated McMurrey, 47, about six years ago, but they quickly realized they were better as friends. The two discussed their longing to be parents, and they ultimately struck up a deal: Close, who earned a modest income in printing, would be a stay-at-home mom, and McMurrey, whose family is rather well-off, would support them.
After a few false starts, Close says, she finally conceived earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, according to Close, McMurrey asked Close how she'd feel about moving to Oregon, along with his friend, Phong Nguyen. Close says McMurrey also insisted on getting their agreement in writing, something Close says she never thought about, since she trusted McMurrey.
Ultimately, on July 3, Close signed an affidavit in which she stated "I am not genetically related to the children" and "I participated in the procedure voluntarily and did not receive compensation for my services other than reimbursement for medical costs of the assisted reproductive procedures." She also declared McMurrey to be the biological father.
After giving birth prematurely at Texas Children's Hospital, Close says, she was served with a temporary restraining order: McMurrey sought a court's ruling declaring him as the father, and denying a parent-child relationship between Close and the babies. McMurrey is arguing that, although Close is the "birthing mother," she's not a genetic parent.
"...her role was that of a surrogate or gestational carrier, which will be confirmed upon receipt of genetic testing," the TRO states.
McMurrey won temporary custody of the twins, who are now living at Nguyen's house. According to Close, McMurrey and Nguyen are in a relationship -- something she hadn't realized until she gave birth.
In August, Close counter-sued McMurrey and Nguyen, claiming breach of duty, fraud, and intentional inflection of emotional distress, among other things.
Close's attorney, Grady Reiff, says that any assertion that Close is not legally the kids' mother is patently absurd. He also says that Texas law only recognizes gestational or surrogacy agreements between a surrogate and a married couple.
"If Marvin gets his way, then our argument is that the only four people to have ever walked the Earth without a mother will be Adam and Eve and [the babies Close gave birth to]...because there will be no...legally recognized mother ever having existed for these children," Reiff says.
Which gives us a headache. The weirdness was also noted by Judge Bonnie Crane Hellums, who said during one hearing in the case, "I'm getting a whole new respect for Solomon."
A hearing has been set for Monday, and we'll update accordingly. Neither McMurrey's nor Nguyen's attorneys wanted to comment for this story.
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