LGBTQ+ Family Law: Understanding the Legal Rights and Protections
If you’re an LGBTQ+ individual looking to get married, get divorced, adopt a child, or handle a family law matter, you might feel overwhelmed and uncertain about your rights. Family law matters are complex, and when you add non-traditional relationships and family structures into the mix, things can get even more complicated.
That’s where the help of an experienced Austin LGBTQ+ family lawyer can make all the difference. At Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., our Austin family law attorneys have more than 50 years of experience helping individuals and families. We understand the barriers facing LBGTQ+ people with family law issues and are prepared to help you overcome them. Contact us to learn how we can assist you with a family law matter.
Establishing Legal Parental Rights: Navigating the Complexities of Parenthood
Establishing parental rights can be challenging for anyone. LGBTQ+ couples enjoy some legal protections when they marry. But marriage does not automatically confer legal parental rights. LGBTQ+ parents must take specific legal steps to establish parental rights.
In some cases, parents can establish legal parental rights by signing voluntary acknowledgments of paternity, which establish a father’s legal relationship with a child. Both parents typically sign these documents at the hospital when their child is born. But additional legal steps may be necessary if a father does not sign an acknowledgment of paternity or another party disputes his paternity.
Adoption is a common method for establishing legal parental rights after marriage, especially among LGBTQ+ couples. When one parent is biologically unrelated to their child, they can establish parental rights by legally adopting the child. The legal adoption process usually involves a court hearing, during which the adoptive parent must prove the adoption is in the child’s best interests.
LGBTQ+ parents deal with unique challenges in establishing parental rights. Many LGBTQ+ parents are not biologically related to their children or have non-traditional family or gender roles.
Examples of common difficulties include:
- Surrogate adoption – Many LGBTQ+ couples work with surrogates to have children, but assisted reproduction processes can introduce legal complications. For instance, a dispute could arise if a surrogate or donor tries to establish their own parental rights.
- Complex family structures – Some LGBTQ+ families have more complex structures than traditional families, particularly when children have multiple parents or guardians who don’t conform to traditional gender roles. These non-traditional family structures can make it harder to establish clear legal relationships between children and their LGBTQ+ parents.
- Bias and discrimination – Sadly, the LGBTQ+ community still faces discrimination and prejudice in all corners of society, including the justice system. If a judge or another legal authority has personal biases clouding their judgment, LGBTQ+ parents might face additional hurdles that complicate the legal process.
As an LGBTQ+ parent, working with an experienced family law attorney who understands the issues you’re facing and knows how to handle your case is essential. The LGBTQ+ family lawyers at Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C. are here to support your family and protect your parental rights.
Single Parenting and Its Implications in Family Law
Single parenting is a reality for many parents, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. Many LGBTQ+ families are formed through adoption, surrogacy, and other non-traditional means. It can be difficult to determine the rights of single parents when these family units change due to separation, divorce, or death.
For instance, if only one parent in a same-sex couple is a child’s legal parent, establishing parental rights can be difficult if that parent dies or becomes incapacitated. Similarly, non-biological single parents seeking to adopt children from prior same-sex relationships might need to go through the legal adoption process, which can be costly and complicated.
Adoption and Non-Relative Adoption
Adoption is an important and emotional process for many LGBTQ+ families that cannot conceive on their own. Adoption gives parents the opportunity to provide stable, loving homes to children who need them. Millions of LGBTQ+ couples have successfully expanded their families through adoption.
However, the legal landscape surrounding non-relative adoption can look different for LGBTQ+ parents. Many municipalities have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals and families seeking to adopt. But discriminatory beliefs and outdated legal barriers make the process harder for non-biological parents.
If you are considering non-relative adoption as an LGBTQ+ individual or couple, it’s a good idea to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable family law attorney. The legal team at Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C. can lead you through the adoption process and protect your family’s rights at every step.
Examining Second Parent or Confirmatory Adoption in Family Law
Second-parent or confirmatory adoption is a common legal process for many LGBTQ+ families. In this type of adoption, one LGBTQ+ parent adopts a child who has already been legally adopted by their partner or was born to their partner via surrogacy or another assisted reproduction method. To initiate a second-parent adoption, the non-legal parent must file a petition with the court and prove that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.
Many LGBTQ+ couples still face discrimination and unusual legal hurdles in the court system, but second-parent adoptions strengthen legal protections for LGBTQ+ parents and children by establishing legal parentage. Second-parent adoptions are especially helpful in cases involving separation and divorce since non-legal parents have no rights to custody or visitation.
Issues Surrounding Parenting Orders in Family Law Cases
A parenting order is a legal document that specifies parents’ rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children’s care and custody. Parenting orders can be especially complicated for LGBTQ+ couples when one or both parents struggle to obtain legal recognition as a child’s parent. If a legal parent dies or becomes incapacitated, for example, the non-legal parent might have no legal parental rights without a court order.
Discriminatory biases in the court system can make it harder for LGBTQ+ individuals to establish their suitability as parents or demand fair outcomes. That’s why it’s always a good idea to seek help from an LGBTQ+ family law attorney if you’re working to establish a parenting order.
Navigating Cases with More than Two Legal Parents in Family Law
There are several possible scenarios involving adoption, surrogacy, and other non-traditional family structures in which a child could have more than two legal parents. These scenarios tend to be more common in LGBTQ+ family law cases. However, there is no clear framework in Texas law for cases involving more than two legal parents, so these cases can be quite challenging.
In a case with more than two legal parents, determining the specifics of parental rights and responsibilities, such as custody, visitation, and support, is often more difficult. Parents in these situations also face challenges when they begin estate planning and determining how to distribute inheritances. Having a skilled LGBTQ+ family lawyer on your team in these circumstances is a must.
Resolving Child Custody Disputes in LGBTQ
Child custody disputes can arise in any family law case, including LGBTQ+ family law cases. Parents might disagree over who retains primary custody, whether certain relatives are allowed visitation, and who will have the final say over the child’s major life decisions.
Parents might seek modifications in custody orders because of changing work schedules, relocations, or new relationships. Whatever the case, a top concern for many LGBTQ+ parents is preserving their parental rights, especially if they have not been recognized as legal parents under state law.
Supporting Transgender Parents in Family Law Matters
Transgender parents face unique challenges and discrimination in family law matters, including adoptions and custody disputes. Many transgender individuals are denied their legal parental rights solely because of their gender identity, regardless of their suitability as parents. Other common issues for transgender parents include difficulty in changing legal names or gender markers on official documents, which can make it harder to establish certain rights in the first place.
Advising Parents of Transgender Children in Family Law Cases
Parents of transgender children often have trouble with family law issues regarding issues such as medical decision-making and name changes for their children. Like many issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, many of these challenges stem from discrimination and a lack of understanding among the general public.
Many people in today’s society do not understand the human experiences of transgender children and their families. As a result, parents of transgender children often face resistance, skepticism, and even hostility when they seek legal name or gender marker changes or gender-affirming care for their children. Our family law attorneys can help you work through these issues.
Schedule a Free Case Review with Our Experienced Austin Family Law Attorneys
If you still have questions or wish to discuss your situation with an experienced family law attorney, contact Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C. right away. We can provide the help you need and evaluate your case during your initial consultation session.