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While the widespread legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 was a huge step forward for many couples, there are still a variety of unique challenges that same-sex couples face.
They may be able to get married and start families, but many couples still face an uphill battle against generations of institutionalized prejudice.
Because of this, here are 5 family law issues all same-sex couples should be aware of:
Adoption of children
For many same-sex couples, adoption is the route they choose to round out their family.
Unfortunately, the options open to same-sex couples are far more limited than those available to heterosexual couples. Many adoption agencies are religious, meaning they use their status to shut out adoptions by same-sex couples.
For those couples wishing to adopt, it is key to find an open, friendly adoption agency.
Custody of Biological Children
Some same-sex couples choose biological parenthood, with one parent being biologically connected to the child.
When that child is born, the parent that is biologically connected to the child is automatically granted full parental rights. However, that isn’t always the case for the non-biological parent, even if they are listed on the birth certificate.
In order for the non-biological parent to have full parental rights in some states, they may have to go through a second parent adoption, also called a co-parent adoption. Even though your state may grant parental rights without this adoption, not all states will honor parental rights in the same way.
For example, if your child is hospitalized in another state and you have not gone through a second parent adoption, you may not have access to your child’s medical information or hospital room if the state doesn’t recognize the parental rights of non-biological parents.
Not having a second parent adoption also can cause issues in gaining custody if the biological parent dies, or in the event of a separation or divorce of the parents.
In most cases, it is advisable that all same-sex couples go through a second parent adoption, even if the state they currently live in recognizes the parental rights of the non-biological parent.
While every couple and individual should have an estate plan in the event that something unfortunate happens, these documents are especially important for same-sex couples.
In some situations, same-sex couples can find it difficult to get access to essential joint assets following the death of one partner, especially if the couple wasn’t legally married.
Some of the items that every same-sex couple should have drawn up and looked over by an attorney include:
- Guardianship of minor children
- Power of attorney
These documents help ensure that your family is protected in the way you want them to be in the event of your death, helping them avoid costly and lengthy legal battles.
In a healthcare emergency, it’s important to have someone you trust who can make decisions related to your care if you’re unable to.
Same-sex couples should have medical powers of attorney in place, as well as living wills, so that their partners can direct their care in the event that a court doesn’t recognize the person’s authority.
Same-sex couples who are married have the option to file their taxes married filing jointly or married filing separately. As with heterosexual couples, which status to choose depends greatly on your individual financial situation.
Contact an accountant who can help you and your partner determine which filing status is right for you.
Experienced representation for same-sex couples in Washington D.C.
At Lopez Law Firm, we want every separated or divorcing couple to feel well-represented and supported. Our knowledgeable attorney can help you navigate the ins and outs of divorce, getting you the results you deserve. Schedule your consultation today!