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Child Custody for Same-Sex Parents

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 21, 2022

Determining child custody in divorce is often a stressful, emotional, and just plain difficult task for parents. Up until recently, things were even more complicated for those people in a same-sex relationship who had children.

However, thanks to the recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Florida, child custody disputes may become a little simpler for same-sex couples.

Same-Sex Child Custody before the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

Child custody laws were created to protect kids, but before they were granted the right to legally marry, same-sex parents faced unique child custody complications not encountered by most heterosexual couples. Since heterosexual couples are often both related to their children, they are generally automatically granted legal parentage. If heterosexual couples were to adopt or use assisted reproduction, as a legally married couple, they would typically be recognized as legal parents for that reason.

However, since same-sex couples cannot biologically reproduce without assisted reproduction, this makes it so only one partner can become a legal, biological parent. And since same-sex couples in Florida were not legally allowed to marry, the non-biological parent could not gain parental rights through marriage, either.

This created complications when same-sex couples tried to separate. Under the previous law, non-legally recognized parents would be at a serious disadvantage in child custody proceedings. In some cases, this allowed for angry or bitter parents to cut off the other parent from having any parenting rights or relationship with the child entirely. In doing so, the child could suffer emotional harm and be denied the practical and financial benefit of having two parents.

Same-Sex Child Custody Today

Thanks to the legalization of same-sex marriage, it may become easier for same-sex married couples to solve child custody disputes. Now that same-sex couples are allowed to marry in Florida, they can make full use of the court system should something go wrong. Married same-sex couples now have full rights to seek a divorce to end their marriage, which means they should also be able to take advantage of alimony and child custody laws.

In Florida, child custody rulings—now referred to as “time sharing” arrangements—determine how child care rights and responsibilities are distributed to both parents. When deciding a time sharing arrangement for same-sex couples, a Florida judge will consider factors such as each spouse’s relationship with the child, their parenting abilities, and the child’s wishes. If parents are unable to reach a time sharing arrangement on their own, it will be the judge to decide who is in charge of making major decisions for the child, as well as the child’s visitation and living arrangements.

However, since both same-sex marriage and same-sex divorce are incredibly new in Florida, the laws surrounding same-sex divorce and time sharing arrangements are still far from perfect. As same-sex couples begin to seek divorce and child custody rulings in Florida courts, they are likely to encounter many obstacles and complications.

That’s why it’s so important for same-sex parents to consult with an experienced Florida family attorney about matters concerning child custody and time-sharing arrangements. A knowledgeable lawyer may be able to explain your rights and options, and anticipate any complications that could arise. With the help of an attorney, you can develop an arrangement that protects the interests and well-being of your child. Should it become necessary to take your case to court, your attorney can work tirelessly to ensure your rights as a parent are protected.