The current legal and political era has grown much more accepting of LGBT couples. Same-sex marriage is now the law across America, so even traditionally conservative states must allow LGBT unions. In addition, LGBT couples can adopt children, and a non-biological parent can obtain legal guardianship of a same-sex spouse’s biological children.
Same-sex couples must receive equal treatment when it comes to divorce, child custody, spousal support, and child support. Nonetheless, they do face some additional complexities, such as a more involved process of legally establishing parentage. An LGBT family lawyer can help same-sex couples work through the challenges in the legal system to protect their rights.
Parentage of Children
Establishing the parentage of children is more complex for same-sex couples. For instance, when same-sex couples divorce, custody disagreements include complications because at least one spouse is not biologically related to the kids. If no formal adoption has been commenced, the biological parent may argue the former partner has no parental rights.
For this reason, family law attorneys recommend establishing the parentage of a child upon welcoming it into a non-traditional family. At this time, parents can establish rights and responsibilities. Though the law technically considers both parents equal, some courts have a preference for the biological parent. Signing a written parenting agreement overcomes this preference by creating an enforceable contract.
Establishing parentage is important even if the parents never separate. Without a written agreement, the non-biological parent cannot access the child’s medical or educational records and faces other obstacles. Same-sex parents can overcome this difficulty by executing a power of attorney or completing a formal adoption.
Short Versus Long-Term Relationships
Often, same-sex couples date or cohabitate before marriage. Accordingly, a divorce may come soon after the marriage in an otherwise long-term relationship. This can impact the results of divorce cases because courts rule differently based on the length of a marriage.
For instance, judges are reluctant to grant alimony when the marriage lasts a short time. They may also be more likely to uphold claims of separate property. Some judges may recognize a short marriage as a long one if a previous relationship occurred, while others may base their decisions based only on the length of the official union. Same-sex couples can ensure their rights by creating a prenuptial agreement.
Gender Biases and a Lack of Education
Though the law supports same-sex couples, LGBT people still face adverse legal rulings as a result of their sexuality. Often, these decisions are based on an outdated reading of the law. Because of this, LGBT couples should be prepared to appeal judgments based on misapplication of the law.
Custody and Spousal Support
Texas law treats LGBT custody and spousal support cases the same as claims involving heterosexual couples. In making custody decisions, the court must focus on the best interests of the child. Because of this, either parent can make a claim for primary or sole conservatorship.
The biological and non-biological status of the parents can create issues that require litigation. For example, the biological parent may feel entitled to automatic sole conservatorship even though the law gives LGBT parents equal claim to the child. LGBT parents can avoid a possible protracted custody battle by completing the formal adoption process and establishing a prenuptial agreement.
Domestic violence is also an LGBT problem. As with heterosexual couples, some LGBT relationships turn toxic, leading one partner to physically abuse the other. When this occurs, it can impact the court’s decisions on property division, child custody, visitation, and spousal support.
Regardless of where you were married, you must file for divorce in your current state of residence. While same-sex marriage must be granted in all states, laws in various jurisdictions have different approaches to same-sex divorce. Therefore, it is important to understand the state-specific statutes that can impact a court’s judgment.
Adoption and Private Adoption Agencies
The law allows same-sex couples to adopt children and bars discrimination against LGBT parents. However, some private adoption agencies may violate the law and act on a bias against LGBT adoption. When this occurs, LGBT couples have legal rights and can bring legal action against discrimination.
LGBT couples enjoy the same legal rights as their heterosexual counterparts. However, they may need to take additional steps to establish parentage and reserve other rights. A family law lawyer can walk LGBT couples through the legal framework and defend their right to equality.
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 (972) 914-3986 to schedule your consultation.