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#514 Child custody and same sex parents

mp3 #514 Lesbian and Gay Male Parents (mp3 file)

Family Law matters are very complex. Many who try to handle these matters on their own quickly find themselves overwhelmed and out of favor with the courts. Often times costs are cited as the reason for self representation. However, most people with assets and retirement plans stand to lose significant amounts of money, or worse, lose custody of their children if they are not properly represented. Continue here to be referred to an experienced and insured Family Law attorney:

In California, the law favors joint custody of children when marriages are dissolved. This means that the courts encourage parents, whenever practical, to share physical and legal custody of their children --- to participate equally in decision making concerning their children and in guiding and directing their children's everyday lives.

Often, however, it is not practical or possible for divorced parents to have joint custody of their children. It then becomes necessary for the parents to agree on which of them will have custody of their children, taking on the primary role of caring for the children and making decisions about them. If the parents cannot agree, the question of who will have legal custody must be decided by the family law court. The court is required to make its decision based on the best interests of the children. To do this, the judge considers any facts about the family members and the children's home life which he or she concludes are relevant to the well-being of the children.

Some years ago, gay and lesbian parents whose sexual orientations were known to the court had no chance of winning a legal dispute over child custody. There was a universal belief that a person who was lesbian or gay was unfit, because of his or her sexuality, to be an active parent -- to associate with or have legal custody of his or her children. The courts, acting on this belief, routinely awarded custody to the non-gay parent without considering any other facts.

Today, new knowledge about the nature of homosexuality is beginning to have an impact on courts' attitudes toward awarding custody of children to gay males and lesbians. Very few courts have ruled that a parent's sexual orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to be a good parent. However, many courts, including some appeals courts in California, have ruled that a parent's sexual orientation is only one of many facts to consider in deciding who will be the better custodial parent for children of a divorce.

This does not mean that a person's homosexual orientation is no longer an obstacle to winning custody of his or her children. There are many beliefs about gay lifestyles which may influence a court's ability to weigh objectively all the facts concerning children's best interests when one of the parents is lesbian or gay. The beliefs which are mentioned most often by judges deciding custody cases are:

(1) beliefs about the sexual behavior of gays and lesbians;

(2) beliefs about the effect of homosexual parenting on children;

(3) the belief that being raised by a gay male or lesbian parent will be a social stigma for a child. Courts, like the general non-gay population, have been led to believe that lesbians and gays are generally promiscuous, do not hesitate to be sexually demonstrative before their children, and want to have sexual relations with their children. They also have been told that children who grow up with a homosexual parent are more likely to be homosexuals, and that children will be shunned or mistreated by playmates and friends who learn that they live with a gay parent.

All of the beliefs just mentioned have been refuted by medical, sociological, and psychological studies conducted by researchers in recent years. Latest information shows that gays and lesbians, rather than being one-dimensional people who are completely controlled by their sexual desires, are as multi-dimensional as non-gays, vary in their individual personalities and morals as much as non-gays, and differ in their abilities to be good parents just as do non-gay people.

If you are a gay male or lesbian parent involved in a child custody dispute, you will have the opportunity to show the judge your individual personality, morals, and parenting ability through your own testimony and through studies of your family done by the child custody counselor in your county. You may also want to hire a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional to evaluate your relationship with your children and appear as an expert witness on your behalf. Since it will be important for you to dispel any mistaken beliefs about homosexuality held by the judge, you may also want to hire experts in medicine, sociology, and psychology to testify concerning the results of recent research studies on homosexuality and parenting.

As a gay or lesbian seeking custody of your children, it is important that you employ an attorney who is already skilled in handling lesbian and gay child custody disputes, or who is willing to familiarize himself or herself with the important legal cases and numerous law review articles which have been written on this subject. It is also very important that your lawyer have some understanding of and respect for your lifestyle, so that he or she is able to be a strong advocate for you as the proper custodial parent for your children.

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