If you’re a lesbian, gay or bisexual parent involved in a custody or visitation dispute with your former spouse, or if you’re afraid to come out because you fear losing your children, you have rights. You shouldn’t have to choose between raising your children and being honest about who you are. More and more people understand and accept our community, and most courts now recognize the importance of our relationships with our children — regardless of our sexual orientation. Although separation and divorce are always difficult, there are steps you can take to protect your family. Remember, no matter how hard things get, you have rights as a parent.
While legal standards vary from state to state, and family court judges are given lots of discretion, the law just about everywhere in the country is that custody or visitation rights will not be denied solely because of a parent’s sexual orientation. Lambda Legal helps make sure that courts apply fair standards so that parents don’t face unjustified losses of custody or visitation.
This postcard is designed for LGB parents leaving heterosexual relationships. If you have questions or need information about adoption, second-parent adoption, custody or visitation concerning your relationship with your same-sex partner, contact the Lambda Legal office in your region for help.
What you should know
- If you assert your rights and get good legal representation, you can help ensure that a court will not use your sexual orientation as a reason to deny you custody or visitation.
- Family courts generally use a child-centered approach when considering custody and visitation needs, and routinely consider a wide range of factors when determining what is best for your kids.
- Many states now consider a parent’s sexual orientation irrelevant when considering granting custody or visitation to lesbian or gay parents. Make sure your lawyer doesn’t assume the worst, direct your lawyer to the resources available on our website: www.lambdalegal.org.
- Many courts have moved away from making assumptions about live-in partners, but all are concerned about stability in the child’s home. If you live with someone or a partner spends the night, most courts will focus on how the relationship is handled and whether it impacts the child in a negative way.
What you can do
- Put your child first. As always, provide consistency and stability.
- If possible, try to reach a voluntary resolution with your ex, but don’t make any final decisions without speaking with an attorney. Custody agreements are hard to change later.
- If you need help finding an attorney, ask someone you trust if they can recommend one or call the Lambda Legal Help Desk in your region for more information.
- Use Lambda Legal’s “Some Suggested Questions to Ask a Prospective Attorney” to help find the right lawyer for you.
- Stay focused on being the best parent you can be.
- Encourage your present or former spouse to contact Our Path, which provides confidential support and information to couples and spouses nationwide.