21 May Same-sex duo married in California fight for child custody in PA
The legal rights of same-sex spouses are still not widely established in Los Angeles and across the country. While same-sex marriages involved in divorces are addressing such issues as child custody,in California where they have legal standing, many other states lack such legislation. As with any marriage, a falling out between the couple often becomes a legal dispute with complicated consequences depending on where the court battle occurs. A state where a couple resides may not recognize a marriage conducted in another state which allows same-sex marriage, leading to rulings emotionally hard to digest.
A recent verdict by a Pennsylvania court last month denied a York woman custody rights for two children birthed by her domestic partner during their marriage recognized under California law in 2009. Pennsylvania does not permit same-sex weddings and thus the battle for custody, in the opinion of the judge, involved the children’s parent and “a third party.” The woman’s partner gave birth to a baby girl in California where the law allowed the woman to be named as “parent/father,” and, later, to a baby boy in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania court will not allow the woman any child custodial claims regarding the boy and has granted only very limited visitation with the girl.
One advocate of same-sex marriages sees this decision as an example of the lack of legal clarity on same-sex unions and stated that such couples were at the mercy of the person adjudicating the case. For instance, it is not clear whether the judge considered the best interests of the children, which is usually the cornerstone of a child custody decision. There is also the question of whether a dispute arising from a similar hetero-sexual divorce would have been judged similarly.
Battles such as these draw attention to the fact that a universally applicable law regarding the rights of same-sex parents is needed immediately. While laws related to family law can be complex, there are family law professionals available to assist couples facing child custody disputes and assist in finding the best possible outcome for all the individuals involved.
Source: yorkdispatch.com, “Former Yorker embroiled in same-sex custody battle“, Christina Kauffman, May 7, 2014