LGBT families face many of the same parenting and custody issues as same-sex couples. It is vital for gay and lesbian parents to have an ally who knows how to defend their custody rights. An LGBT divorce lawyer at Aberdeen Family Law will know how to address the issues faced by gay and lesbian parents in the family courts of WA. Let us defend your parental rights and help make custody arrangements that are right for your family.
Establishing Paternity for Same-Sex Couples
WA law allows paternity to be established in several different ways. If a child is formally adopted, the named adopters are considered legal parents for the purposes of child custody. A child’s biological parents are also considered legal parents (unless they have surrendered this right through formal adoption proceedings, or had it removed by the state through severance proceedings). There are also certain presumptions of paternity: if, for example, a married woman gives birth, her husband is presumed to be the father. This presumption can be rebutted with evidence that someone else is the biological father.
Gay and lesbian parents can face challenges in proving paternity. In some cases, neither parent is a biological parent of the child. In other cases, only one parent might be biologically related to the child, and they might use this fact to try to gain an advantage in custody proceedings. It is important for LGBT parents to consult with an experienced LGBT divorce lawyer about their particular circumstances. A child custody lawyer will be able to help you devise the best strategy for establishing paternity to the court.
Parenting Time and Legal Decision Making Authority
Once the court has determined the child’s legal parents, it must make decisions about parenting time (through a “child possession and access” order) and legal decision-making authority. When both parents share joint decision-making authority, the court will enter an order for “joint conservatorship.” If one parent is awarded decision-making authority, the court will enter a sole conservatorship for that parent.
These decisions can affect the parent-child relationship for years to come. If your parenting time is limited, you will have fewer opportunities to develop a strong relationship with your child. If the other parent has the authority to make decisions about the child’s school, religion, medical treatment, and other critical decisions, you will have no say in these major life decisions. It is important to defend your right to spend time with your children and make important legal decisions on their behalf. The court cannot be guided by the gender or sexuality of a parent. The court must be guided by the best interests of the child in making these decisions. It is difficult – if not impossible – for someone to prove that a parent’s sexuality adversely affects the child’s interests. Even if a family court were to enter such an order, it would be given harsh treatment on appeal. Any court order that discriminates against someone based upon their sexuality is treated with suspicion by courts of appeals.
Like other parenting issues, child support is usually not affected by the fact that a parent is gay or lesbian. Child support is calculated under state guidelines that account for each parent’s proportional income and parenting time. If, for example, both parents earned the same amount and spent essentially equal time with the children, neither should owe child support to the other.
Other costs (such as medical expenses and school tuition) can factor into child support determinations. If one parent chooses not to work or is choosing to earn less than he or she could be making, the court can attribute income to them based upon what they could be earning in the job market. This hypothetical income is then used to calculate the other parent’s child support obligation. Other special circumstances can factor into child support calculations, as well, but as you can see, these income issues do not rely on whether the parents are heterosexual or homosexual.
Call Us Today to Speak with an LGBT Divorce Lawyer
Same-sex parenting has raised many new issues in child custody law. It is important for LGBT parents to work with a Bellevue family law attorney who knows how to present these issues effectively – both during negotiations of a parenting plan and, if necessary, in court. The experienced child custody lawyers at Aberdeen Family Law know both during negotiations of a parenting plan and, if necessary, in court. The experienced divorce and child custody lawyers at Aberdeen Family Law know how to help LGBT parents protect their parental rights. Call 206-790-6430 to schedule your consultation.