Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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How will family law courts address transgender issues in divorce?

The much-publicized story of Olympian Bruce Jenner has sparked many questions in relation to child custody and visitation in circumstances in which a transgendered parent gets divorced. Although Bruce and Kris Jenner's two daughters are teenagers, many divorces in Massachusetts and other states involve a transgendered parent of young children. Regardless of the state in which such a divorce is filed, the best interests of the children are always the primary concern of the family law court.

When considering the best interests of a child, judges will likely take the effect the gender change of a parent has on the child into consideration. A child who grew up in a "traditional" family may be traumatized if his or her parents are suddenly of the same sex. Not all communities accept gender changes and children are also known to be cruel. Emotional damage can impact on the life of a child in such circumstances.

The attitude and level of acceptance by the other parent with relation to the new dynamics may also influence the court. While some spouses accept the decisions by their partners to go through the process of a gender change, others may believe that the new circumstances will be a threat to the children's happiness and emotional health. If the court regards the couple as two people of opposite sexes -- despite the gender change -- the laws for heterosexual couples may prevail. However, if the judge sees them as a same-sex couple, laws related to same-sex unions may become the rule.

Massachusetts individuals who are considering gender reassignment may recognize that this is a complex area of family law. A consultation with an experienced attorney who focuses on non-traditional family laws may provide the legal information necessary for a unique case. With the guidance of knowledgeable professionals, informed decisions can be made on matters, such as child custody and visitation, while keeping in mind the best interests of the children.

Source: mainstreet.com, "Transgender Parents Face Uphill Battle For Child Custody and Visitation in Court", Juliette Fairley, May 20, 2015

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