Same-sex couples very often have children together. How this occurs differs from family to family, but in every case, these parents love their children and seek custody of them even after a divorce or legal separation. The facts of the specific relationship matter greatly, including how the child came into the relationship, whether one or both biological parents are in the picture, was the child adopted, and whether the parties were married. All of these can factor into a court's decision on custody.
If you need assistance with a same-sex custody arrangement now or in the future, the experienced attorneys at the Lento Law Firm are here and ready to help you.
Same-Sex Custody Attorney in Pennsylvania
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent over 20 years fighting passionately for clients to protect their rights as a parent. He is a skillful negotiator and can make efforts to get the results you want diplomatically when possible. When it is not, he is a proven fighter who knows the law and will put it to use for you. You have rights as a parent, and they deserve protection.
If you need assistance with a same-sex custody issue in Pennsylvania and need comprehensive, customized legal representation, contact the attorneys at Lento Law Firm. Joseph Lento built his practice on the ideals of customer service and justice and he will fight for your rights as a parent. Call (888) 535-3686 today to schedule your consultation and discover what Joseph Lento can do for you.
Same-Sex Custody in Pennsylvania
Like the breakup of any marriage or serious relationship involving children, custody issues are common and usually complex. Disputes arise both during the immediate time of the parents' separation, as well as throughout the time the child is under the age of 18. When parents cannot agree, a custody hearing may be necessary to determine the rights of the parents, and the best interests of the child.
In every custody determination, a court will consider the best interests of the child, including factors such as:
- Parental employment
- Child's interaction with siblings
- Needs of the child
- History of domestic violence
- Cooperativeness of the parents
- Proximity of the parents to one another
- How much time the child spent with parents before separation
- Safety of the child from abuse
- Ages of the children
- Preference of the child (if they are old enough)
These factors will be considered in every case, irrespective of whether the parents are opposite-sex or same-sex couples.
Unique Issues Faced by Same-Sex Couples
Different situations can require different custody determinations as compared to custody disputes between biological parents. Pennsylvania law automatically assumes certain rights to biological parents fighting for custody of their children, regardless of the relationship status of the parents.
With same-sex couples, it is slightly different simply because both individuals cannot be the biological parent of the child or children in most cases. The law is not written differently for same-sex couples, as the law should not discriminate, but different facts can apply to your family.
Both Parents Have Legal Custody
When both parents in the same-sex couple already have legal custody, custody proceedings will operate identically or similarly to custody issues of heterosexual couples. Same-sex spouses gain legal custody of their children in various ways, such as:
- the child was born into the marriage biologically by one parent (i.e. in vitro fertilization, sperm donation, etc.)
- stepparent adoption proceedings (child from previous relationship)
- joint adoption proceedings (adopted a child together)
When this is the case, same-sex couples face the same types of challenges everyone faces. Even if you are not the biological parent of the child, this does not mean that you have fewer rights than the biological parent in this situation.
Lack of Legal Custody by One Parent
In some same-sex couples, only one parent may have legal custody of the child. This can occur in various ways:
- the child was never legally adopted by the non-biological parent
- the parties were never officially married or in a domestic partnership
- only one parent legally adopted the child
Even in situations where you did not have legal custody, this certainly does not change the fact that you loved that child like your own. When you do not have a pre-existing legal right to the child's custody, but you have acted as a parent, you can argue for child custody by arguing you stood in loco parentis.
A person stands in loco parentis if he or she has put him or herself in the position of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incident to the parental relationship without going through the formality of a legal adoption. This occurs when the parent has established psychological bonds with the child such that the child views that person as a parent.
To determine whether a person qualifies for in loco parentis status, the Court will look at, among other things:
- Relationship of the same sex partner and child
- Maturity of the same-sex couple
- The length of the relationship between the same-sex couple and whether they live together with the child.
- The intentions of both partners to parent together and what steps, if any, were taken to ensure that joint parenting would take place.
- Any co-parenting agreements or other documents regarding the child that had both partners listed as parents.
While adoption of the child is always recommended if you want to ensure parental rights, sometimes it is too late for that. If you do not have legal custody of your child, but want to exercise your parental rights following a divorce or separation, a qualified PA family law attorney can help you.
Pennsylvania Same-Sex Custody Attorney
No matter your situation, as a parent in a same-sex couple you want to protect your children, and your rights as a parent. Your rights deserve protection and highly qualified legal representation.
Joseph D. Lento is well-versed in same-sex custody law. He will inform you of your options in same-sex custody predicaments, protect your rights, and help you understand and navigate the court system. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.