A Montana court recognized Michelle Kulstad as a parent to the two children she raised together with Barbara Maniaci, granting Kulstad time with her children and ordering that Kulstad have joint decision-making authority for matters significantly affecting the children, including their “education, activities, health care and spiritual upbringing.”
Kulstad and Maniaci, both of the Missoula area, ended their relationship in 2006. Maniaci, as the “legally adoptive” parent claimed that Kulstad had no custodial rights to their children, that she should not be granted visitation rights, and that she was a “legal stranger” to the children.
The court rejected those arguments and ruled that it was in the best interest of the children for their parent-child relationship with Kulstad to continue, finding that Kulstad was a parent to the children and that the children had a constitutional right to have that relationship continue. The court noted that Kulstad provided for the children and raised them with Maniaci, and the children recognized her as a parent. The court said, “. . . the evidence shows that rupture of the children’s relationship with Ms. Kulstad would be not only contrary to their best interests, but severely detrimental to their well-being.”