Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Nontraditional family law has a lot of catching up to do

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision that bans on LGBT marriages are unconstitutional, legal disputes over multiple issues arise when these couples break up. Until all laws are updated to include nontraditional family law, same\-sex divorces and the end of some domestic partnerships may end up in court. Although Massachusetts is far ahead in accommodating same-sex issues, some other states lag behind.

A couple in another state is fighting a bitter battle over the parenting of a child that was born during their 13-year domestic partnership. The one woman is the biological mother of the child, and the other one begs for parenting time. Although the county circuit court awarded her parenting rights, the Court of Appeals overturned that ruling.

Although the non-biological mother claims to meet all the requirements a heterosexual father needs to obtain parenting rights, the court said the fact that the parents were not married when the child was born, disqualifies her of any rights. This despite the fact that a heterosexual father can have parenting rights even if he was never married to the child's mother. The states in which the couple resided during their relationship between 2001 and 2014 did not allow same-sex marriages.

Same-sex couples in Massachusetts may benefit from consulting with an experienced nontraditional family law attorney when they consider starting a family. Knowing the obstacles that can be present in the event of a relationship ending may help couples to be proactive and address these issues in legal ways that will protect them at a later date. Parenting issues do not only have an adverse effect on the parents but also on the children who were born in same-sex partnerships.

Source: mlive.com, "Michigan woman denied parental rights after same-sex relationship ends", Lauren Slagter, July 7, 2016

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