A conservative businessman has been sentenced to three years in jail for helping a woman kidnap her biological child, flee the country and find new living arrangements overseas after she left a same-sex union and converted to a form of evangelical Christianity. Is it a case of “no good deed going unpunished,” as the defendant claims, or a deliberate act based on religious convictions? According to the court, it’s purposeful interference (and conspiracy to do the same) of a same-sex parent’s right to visitation and custody of her child, likely motivated by the man’s anti-gay beliefs. He has been an influential donor to right-wing religious groups in the past. The biological mother was in a same-sex relationship, legalized under civil union laws in Vermont, before she gave birth to the couple’s daughter. The child was conceived using donor sperm through artificial insemination, and the non-biological mother wasn’t listed on the birth certificate as a parent. After the couple split, the biological mother changed religions and became a self-proclaimed “ex gay.” She was represented in her efforts to deny the other mother’s visitation rights by Liberty Counsel, a law firm that often takes up anti-gay custody cases. This is a case they continuously lost. It eventually became clear that the court was about to strip the biological mother of primary custody and give it to the child’s other mother instead. That is not uncommon in custody cases where one parent refuses to follow the court’s orders and play by the rules.
As bad of a situation as divorce can be, there are some people who are just thankful that they have the chance to legally end a legal marriage, including a same-sex marriage. In fact, same-sex marriage legalization coincides with a drop in teen suicide rates, which shows the results of empowerment. Same-sex couples have fought long and hard to be able to get married. With that right comes the right to divorce. For these individuals, the legal protections they have are the same as those of a same-sex couple. We know that you might feel like you are walking a new path if you are in a same-sex marriage and need to get divorced. We can help you to learn about how the divorce will work in your case. There are some special considerations that we will need to work with you to address. One of these is child custody if you and your spouse had children together. Just like other divorce cases, same-sex divorce cases also have to deal with property division. Massachusetts laws govern how property is divided if the court handles the division. As an alternative method, you and your ex can work together to come to terms about who gets what and other matters related to the divorce. Once an agreement is made, the court will need to approve it. Some same-sex couples have prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. In these cases, the agreement lays out the foundation for the property division settlement. Whether you have a
As same-sex couples gained the legal right to get married in Massachusetts and in many parts of the United States, the issue of same-sex divorce also became more common. Same-sex couples struggle with the same issues that any couples have, such as trying to decide if divorce is the best option and attempting to figure out what is best for their futures, their families, and the like. Below are a few important questions that renowned divorce writer Dr. Susan Allison suggests couples ask at this time: 1. When did you feel happiest while you and your spouse were married? By determining when you felt the happiest, you can sometimes see why that joy has left the marriage. This can help you see if it’s a temporary issue or something that can’t be fixed. 2. Why did you tie the knot in the first place? Of course, many couples simply fall in love, but there are many other factors that play into this decision. For instance, perhaps it was easier to get married at the time for the sake of health care benefits and getting on the same insurance plan. 3. What scares you the most about staying together? If you dread the thought of putting off divorce, what is is that really worries you? This question helps you see what you’re really afraid of and if it’s something that can only be avoided by ending the relationship. These are just three of the 20 questions Dr. Allison suggests couples ask
Children come into the lives of same-sex couples in a variety of ways. Sometimes they adopt them together. In some cases, one spouse is artificially inseminated and gives birth. In other cases, particularly for male couples, a surrogate is hired to carried the baby. As with heterosexual couples, sometimes a child is already in the picture when they get married. Perhaps one person adopted a child on his/her own while still single. Whatever the case, it’s essential for anyone who is not the biological or adoptive parent to understand that under the law, they aren’t the child’s parent. That means that if the couple gets divorced or the biological or adoptive parent dies, the other parent may have no rights to custody, visitation or decisions regarding that child. Those things will be decided by a court if the parent pursues those rights. While Massachusetts courts have a history of being friendly to same-sex couples and parents, if you and/or your partner move to another state, you can’t necessarily count on the same level of recognition that gay parents have the same bonds with their kids as straight ones. In the current political climate, it’s possible that states could be given more latitude to make laws discriminating against gay couples. That’s why it’s wise to secure your status as your child’s legal parent. That involves either a formal adoption or a court order that is valid in all states that designates your parentage of the child. Many people think that the
Here in Massachusetts, same-sex couples can adopt children together. However, often when couples enter a relationship, one of them already has a child — either one they’ve adopted or a biological child. That person is the child’s legal parent, while his or her partner has no legal rights as a parent unless he or she formally adopts the child. That’s known as second parent adoption. Many gay couples opt for second parent adoption not just to formalize the family unit, but to ensure that they have full parental rights. Adoption allows the formerly “non-legal” parent to make important medical and other decisions for a child. It also prevents them from losing the child to another family member if the other parent should die. It can be particularly crucial if the couple divorces or breaks up. If there’s no adoption agreement in place, as we’ve seen in cases that have played out throughout the country, a person who’s parented a child for virtually that child’s entire life can be prevented from having any sort of custody or visitation rights by an ex without court intervention in the matter. There are some strategies for people who find themselves fighting for the right to continue to parent their child after a divorce or break-up with the child’s legal parent. They need to provide evidence that they are “de facto” parents. This means that even though they have no biological or legal relationship to the child, they have cared for him or her, participated
Many same-sex couples who were married here in Massachusetts more than a decade ago have gone on to live in other states where marriage equality didn’t exist until it became the law of the land. Massachusetts, of course, was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage back in 2004. One of those couples, who married here in Massachusetts in 2009 and later settled in Mississippi, is now in a custody battle that has made it way to that state’s Supreme Court. The couple, whose divorce was finalized last month, is fighting over custody of their sons. The women had a child conceived via in vitro fertilization while they were married. The woman who didn’t give birth to the now 5-years-old child was not allowed to be listed on the boy’s birth certificate and therefore is not considered his legal parent. She has since been denied the right to adopt him. The two also adopted a son, who is now 16. The woman who has pursued the custody case in court was denied joint physical or legal custody of either child. She was, however, granted visitation and ordered to pay child support. The issue of child custody in gay marriages is still a difficult one. Because same-sex spouses weren’t allowed to be listed as legal parents on their children’s birth certificates for many years if they weren’t the person giving birth, they have no legal rights as parents if the couple divorces. The woman pursuing this case says she hopes that
Two women who was legally married here in Massachusetts in 2009 are now embroiled in a custody dispute as they go through a divorce in Mississippi. It’s a not-uncommon dilemma for gay couples who faced a patchwork of state laws regarding same-sex marriage prior to its national legalization. Same-sex marriage didn’t become legal in Mississippi until the June 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision. It was still being battled in the courts until the following month. Although all states now have to legally recognize the rights of gay couples to marry, when it comes to getting divorced, particularly when there are children involved, many find themselves in a legal quagmire. The two women who returned to their home state of Mississippi after marrying in Massachusetts have two children — one adopted and one conceived through in vitro fertilization. However, only one of the women is considered the children’s legal parent. The woman who is not listed as the older child’s adoptive mother and is not the birth mother of the younger child says that the couple raised the children together, but now she has no parental rights, even for visitation. The women separated in 2013, before their marriage was recognized in Mississippi. One served the other with divorce papers in the summer of 2015, after their marriage became legally recognized. As with many divorcing couples, the relationship deteriorated into accusations and counter-accusations. However, unlike many custody disputes, one spouse isn’t recognized under the law as a parent of the children involved.
You do what you can to be a great parent to your child after a divorce, but does it seem like your ex just doesn’t trust you? One woman said that she thought her and her spouse would be able to split up cleanly and move on, but things didn’t go nearly as well as she’d hoped because her ex considered her to be the “other” mom, the one who wasn’t as capable of raising the child. According to her, the following are indicators that this is happening: — Your ex checks up with doctors, teachers and others after meetings that you attended to make sure things went well. — When you have the kids for any amount of time and you drop them back off, your ex wants detailed reports about what you did and when. — Your ex shames you for working too much and not spending as much time with the kids. This can be done in a way that implies that she is the real, caring mother, while you’re not. — Your ex spends time with the kids, while you end up paying child support. — Most of your children’s possessions end up at your ex’s house. A toy bought as a birthday present, for example, may go to the house when the next custody switch happens, and you’ll never see it again. Knowing what these signs look like can be important even as you’re still working through the divorce. The two of you will need
Divorce can be tough for same-sex couples, and it is something that will likely become more common as same-sex marriage also increases in frequency. There have been massive shifts in both law and public opinion over the years, leading to increased rights for same-sex couples. Those who are splitting up must know how their rights may have changed and what the legal process now looks like. As you sort through this, these tips can help make it all easier. 1. Remember that divorce is still a legal process. It’s emotional on your end because the relationship is ending, but try not to take the court process itself too personally. 2. Additionally, don’t make emotional decision — like fighting for assets you don’t even want out of spite. You want to put your negative emotions aside and make calm, rational decisions. 3. Have a support system. This could include your family, your friends, your legal team, or even some of your co-workers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get assistance. Don’t think you must do everything yourself. 4. Go through the divorce in a way you’ll later be proud of, without compromising any of your own ideals and values. When you look back, you want to be happy with the decisions you made and the way you acted. You want to know that you stuck with the things you really care about, whether your personal values include love, family, health and well being, or other things entirely. Divorce isn’t easy.
When a relationship comes to an end, if there are children involved, the divorce can be quite hard for them. This is true for same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples alike. Below are a few standards that can be used to help kids at this time. 1. Remember that the other parent also has rights regarding the kids, and be sure to support and uphold those rights. 2. Allow children to keep relationships with both parents. This means not doing anything to limit the involvement of your ex in the kids’ lives. This may be hard for you in such an emotional situation, but it is best for the children. 3. Take your time with the breakup. Do not make rash, emotional decisions. Instead, clearly think through every decision and what it’s going to mean for everyone involved. 4. Keep providing for the child and supporting him or her. If you have custody, you will likely provide some sort of support almost every single day. Even if you don’t, though, there are many ways you can still support your child — including the financial side — and help his or her growth and development. 5. Focus on consistency. The end goal should be to make sure that life changes as little as possible for the child, even when you and your spouse break up. All decisions — like where to live — can be based around this ideal. This can be hard to do, and it’s important to know all of