Divorce is always complicated and emotionally draining, but that's especially true when children are involved. Both spouses usually want what's best for the child. However, they also may want to protect their rights as parents and maintain their relationship with the child. The legal process of maintaining one's rights can often be difficult on the entire family. For LGBT couples, the process can be even more complex, especially if one spouse is a non-biological or non-adoptive parent. If you are part of an LGBT couple with a child and you have no legal ties to the child, you may be worried about your ability to retain custody or visitation. Below are a few tips for how to manage the process:
Set realistic expectations. The recent Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage gave LGBT couples new access to family court in all states to settle divorce and child custody disputes. However, if you have no legal ties to the child, don't expect the court to lean in your favor. Even though you may have been the primary caregiver, it is highly unlikely that you will be named the custodial parent in court. In fact, your claims to the child could take a back seat behind grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other legal, biological relatives.
Instead, be realistic and pursue things like visitation or partial custody. Also understand that your best route is likely to be through mediation or a settlement, as a trial could leave you empty-handed.
Maintain a courteous relationship with your spouse. Being a non-legal parent, you are already in a disadvantaged position. Since you will likely need to negotiate a custody settlement with your spouse, it's imperative that you keep the relationship professional and courteous. As emotionally charged as the situation may be, avoid the urge to issue threats or to use intense language.
Instead, keep a cool head. Offer to help with the child and express how the child would benefit from your continued involvement. You want to position yourself as a positive and helpful presence in the child's life.
Be prepared to give in order to get. Ultimately, divorce settlements are all about negotiation and compromise. That's true in straight divorces and LGBT divorces. By asking the legal parent to share custody, you are asking them to make a compromise that they may not be legally required to make. In order to do that, you may need to offer something, such as child or spousal support or a greater share of assets. While it may not be pleasant to think of the child as a negotiating tool, that's the reality if you have no legal recourse or court alternative.
For more information, contact an LGBT divorce lawyer. They can help you navigate this difficult process.
My husband and I had a great marriage for about ten years--that is, until he started cheating on me. I found out about it from a friend, and once I started peeling off the layers of my husband's lies, I realized that we hardly had anything to salvage in the first place. I decided that it would be best to get divorced, but I knew that it would be painful and difficult. This blog is for anyone out there who needs to gather the strength to get divorced. Check out these posts to learn more about the process and how the right lawyer can help.