Other half of Minnesota's first same-sex divorce shares her story

Rosalyn Tuckner holds up a shirt that her son decorated with his handprints.
Rosalyn Tuckner holds up a shirt that her son decorated with his handprints.

On midnight on August 1, Dawn and Rosalyn Tuckner became legally married in the state of Minnesota.

But by the time Minnesota finally gave the couple its official stamp of approval, they had already been married for nine years and separated for four. Now, the Tuckners are filing the paperwork for the first known same-sex divorce in the state.

Dawn came forward with her story on August 6, and quickly became national news. Rosalyn, however, has not spoken publicly until now.

See Also:
- First Minnesotans to file for same-sex divorce can finally move on

"Everyone else is excited to go get married," says Rosalyn. "I'm excited to go get a divorce so I can finally close that book."

The couple wed on the Canada side of Niagara Falls on November 1, 2004, their one-year anniversary together. By July 2009, the marriage was falling apart, and after a year-long separation, they called it quits for good in October 2010.

But they couldn't legally end their marriage. Though they had tied the knot in Canada, the country only divorces residents, so Dawn and Rosalyn found themselves "stuck," they both say. They decided to try to push their legal union out of their minds until there was something they could do about it, and focus instead on the day-to-day details of halving.

Dawn kept the mortgage of their home in her name; they split up shared credit cards. Minnesota's legal protections for divorcing couples didn't cover them, so they had to unravel their intertwined stuff on their own. But dividing the material goods was easy next to the decisions about how to continue to parent their son.

Two years after their wedding -- on January 12, 2006 -- Dawn gave birth to the couple's baby boy.

"I couldn't give him my genes," explains Rosalyn. "But I gave him my last name, and I was a part of his life every step of the way. I picked the sperm donor, I was there when he was born, I cut the umbilical cord, I named him. He's my boy."

Their son's birth certificate has both Dawn and Rosalyn's signatures. "It looks just like any other baby birth certificate," Rosalyn, who also legally adopted the boy shortly after his birth, explains. "Except it has two women on there."

For about a year after their split, the couple created their own custody arrangement: Rosalyn spent time with their son every other weekend and two nights during the week, and paid Dawn child support.

Then the makeshift arrangement started to come unglued. After arguments over how much she could see their toddler, Rosalyn says, she tried to get a lawyer but couldn't afford to take a custody case to court.

Now, Rosalyn hasn't seen her son for two years. She's quick to cite the exact date -- January 23, 2011 -- of their last visit. At the time, he was five. Now he's seven.

But Rosalyn is ready to fight again. Though the new opportunity to legally end her relationship with Dawn doesn't change her parenting rights, it has lit a fire under her.

Last week, she signed the divorce paperwork and also began the process of seeking shared custody. Dawn, meanwhile, has a new partner of three years, whom she also hopes to legally involve in the couple's son's life.

A key question is how the courts will view all these mothers.

"We have essentially three moms," says Rosalyn's lawyer, Tracy Reid. "I think that the non-biological mothers are going to be treated like a father role, at least that's how it's being viewed in this case. I hope that doesn't happen and we look at them all equally as parents."

Rosalyn echoes Reid, and says that she hopes whichever judge she gets will recognize her as her son's second mother.

"I feel like I have to make sure I don't look too butch that day, so I'm not too gender-bending for the judge," she laughs sadly. "That's frustrating. I just want to be me. I don't care about impressing other people. I just want to get my kid back. And I don't care about being the first gay divorce. I just want to get my kid back."

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