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Navigating divorce as a lesbian couple with children

Divorce is a difficult process for any couple, but it can be even more complex for same-sex couples with children in states like Tennessee, where laws haven’t necessarily caught up with societal changes.

If this is your current predicament, it can help to familiarize yourself with what the law stipulates to help you navigate this challenging time as effectively as possible.

Understanding your legal rights

The good news is that the Volunteer State recognizes same-sex marriages for all legal purposes, including divorce. This means that both spouses have the same rights and responsibilities during the divorce process as heterosexual couples. However, there can be additional complexities, especially regarding child custody, when one partner is not the biological mother.

Child custody

State courts determine child custody based on the “best interests of the child” standard. This considers factors like the child’s age, emotional needs, relationship with each parent and each parent’s ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment.

In a same-sex marriage, both spouses are considered legal parents if they adopt the child jointly. However, if only one spouse is the biological mother and the other hasn’t legally adopted the child, establishing parental rights becomes crucial.

If you haven’t already, consider finalizing a second-parent adoption before filing for divorce. This can help ensure both spouses have legal parental rights and eliminate potential custody disputes.

The state has a presumption of paternity laws stating that a man is the legal father of any children born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage. While there aren’t specific laws for same-sex couples, courts may apply these laws with gender-neutral interpretations, depending on the circumstances.

Reaching an agreement

Whenever possible, try to reach an agreement with your ex-partner on child custody, parenting time and financial matters like child support and spousal support (alimony). This can minimize court involvement, reduce stress and allow you to prioritize the well-being of your children. Mediation, a collaborative form of dispute resolution, can be a valuable tool in reaching an amicable agreement.

Divorce is a challenging experience, but with knowledge and support, you can navigate this process effectively. Remember, the most important thing is to prioritize the well-being of your children. By understanding your legal rights, seeking legal guidance and prioritizing open communication, you can work towards a positive outcome for your family.

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