Like all parents, you love your child deeply and want what is best for him or her. If you are going through a custody dispute, though, you may face some additional issues as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Which issues may arise likely depends on whether you are a legal or non-legal parent of your child.
If both of you are legal parents
Because LGBTQ relationships are becoming more common in Tennessee, both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse may be legal parents of your son or daughter. That is, the birth certificate or adoption paperwork may list you and your spouse as your child’s parents. If so, your relationship is legally no different than an opposite-sex couple’s.
If you and your partner cannot reach an acceptable agreement about child custody and related matters, a judge is apt to decide for you. When making his or her decision, the judge must consider what is in the best interests of your child.
This requires carefully weighing a number of factors, including the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to care for the child and even the child’s preference.
If only one of you is a legal parent
If your family is like that of many LGBTQ couples, either you or your spouse is the legal parent of the child. This fact pattern, unfortunately, may complicate your custody matter. After all, a judge may see the non-legal parent as having no parental rights.
Therefore, if you do not already have a legal claim to parentage, you may need to show that having an ongoing relationship with your child is in his or her best interests. This requires going through the same legal factors from above.
If you want more certainty
Because of the risk of losing parental rights, many parents prefer not to place their custody dispute in front of a judge. If you are looking for more certainty, you may want to try to reach an acceptable resolution with your partner.
Through mediation or another collaborative process, you may be able to come up with an working parenting plan without ever having to confront LGBTQ-specific issues.