The American Bar Association estimates that roughly four million gay and lesbian parents are raising between six and ten million kids in our country. Under California law, same-sex married couples are supposed to have the same rights as heterosexual ones.
However, the courts are still figuring out how to handle cases that have different aspects than same-sex ones. Since legislation has changed many times and the laws and cases are new, both the California Courts and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) suggest that same-sex parents establish their parentage legally with proper documentation.
Things can get tricky in divorces where the couple was together for years before marriage was even an option or decided on domestic partnership. There are also formalities having to do with where couples were married or lived. In cases where children came from a previous heterosexual marriage, gay and lesbian parents can face bias from judges who are not ideologically aligned with their lifestyle. And as California has seen with Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, politicians can quickly take away what activists have worked so hard to achieve.
As with any custody case, the same criteria are evaluated: the child’s welfare and health; the relationship and caretaking duties of the parents; the presence of physical, drug, or alcohol abuse; and more. Unfortunately, however, things aren’t always so cut-and-dried.
Many scenarios play out in same-sex divorces involving child custody. A non-biological parent can find his or herself out in the cold, heartbroken at being denied visitation rights to a child he or she nurtured since birth. Or a biological parent can suddenly find his or herself the sole parent as the other partner wants to give up parenting along with the partnership.
An in-depth analysis of parental responsibilities might be required if one partner is trying to paint the other as absent or uncaring. For instance, analyzing which partner spent more time caring for the children can be projected unfairly. One can appear to have committed less time when actually there may have been an agreement that one parent spend more time on career for the good of the family.
Of course, many couples want to split amicably, but the hard slog of determining visitation schedules and splitting expenses and other daily parenting duties can put strain on the most well-meaning of parents.
As with all custody cases, it’s hard to separate the range of emotions a partner is feeling from what’s best for the child. Dealing with a separation or a divorce involving kids makes a confusing time even worse, and for same-sex couples, the process gets even more complicated.
If you are considering divorce, having a custody dispute, want to establish yourself as a legal parent or guardian, or have any other marriage-related legal issues, call Attorney Laurence J. Brock for a free consultation. He has been helping California clients resolve these issues for three decades and knows how to navigate the current same-sex marriage laws to help partners fight for their parental rights. Schedule your case evaluation by calling 909-466-7661 or by completing the form below.