Many people likely remember that, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples had a fundamental right to marry in all 50 states three summers ago. Two years later, the high court made another ruling that, although receiving less news media coverage than the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, also had a massive impact on families with gay and lesbian parents. That more recent ruling, from the summer of 2017, declared that the states were required to list a same-sex spouse on a child’s birth certificate if they similarly listed a mother’s husband (even if the husband was not the biological father). While some may view these battles as primarily political or social in nature, the reality is that birth certificates play a very substantial role when it comes to determining child custody after a split. Regardless of your orientation, probably nothing is more important to you than your relationship with your children, which is why you should make sure you retain a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney to handle your child custody case.
The reason this issue of names on a birth certificate matters so much is because of the way that Florida goes about deciding who has what rights when it comes to custody of, and timesharing with, a child. The law in this state grants a parent a privacy right that entitles the parent to control the amount of contact a child has with someone who does not have the status of legal parenthood.
Obviously, this matters for some opposite-sex couples, where the child may live with two parent figures, one of whom has legal status and one of whom does not. It matters a great deal, though, for a lot of same-sex couples where many of their families are in that position. It matters because, although everyone wants to think that their current marriage/relationship will last forever, many don’t. If you’re gay or lesbian, you may find yourself one day completely cut off from the child you raised for a decade or more since he/she was a baby.
There are various ways to protect your relationship with the child, which are especially important for gay and lesbian parents. One is to go through the legal process of adopting the child. Once the adoption is final, you are a legal parent and have the same parental rights as the child’s biological parent.
Another is to make sure that both you and your partner’s names are on the birth certificate. Last August, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a ruling against the lesbian partner of a child’s birth mother. In that case, originating in Miami, V.C. and G.P. were lesbian partners who “presented themselves as a married couple,” but never actually married. They had twins in 2009. The boy died in infancy and the girl survived. When the daughter was four, the women separated. G.P., who was the birth mother, cut V.C. out of the child’s life.
The courts decided that, even if it was in the best interest of the child to have an ongoing and vibrant relationship with V.C., the law didn’t allow it. The courts looked at many facts, including the lack of an adoption and the absence of V.C.’s name from the girl’s birth certificate. These facts all required ruling that V.C. did not have legal rights regarding the child and G.P.’s privacy rights entitled her to make decisions for her daughter, including cutting V.C. out of the girl’s life.
The case of V.C. and G.P. also highlights some other things that same-sex couples, who are considering having children through assisted reproduction, can do that will potentially safeguard both partners’ rights. One is get married before having kids. One of the facts that worked against V.C. in her case was that she and G.P. never went out-of-state and got married. Another consideration is one for lesbian couples. That is to have one partner contribute the genetic material (egg) and the other partner carry the child. Contributing genetic material is one thing Florida courts look at in these cases, as is (obviously) being the birth mother.
Whether heterosexual or an LGBT person, your relationship with the children you raise is a treasured thing. Be sure to rely upon the knowledge and skill of the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. when it comes to your custody and timesharing case. Our attorneys have been providing clients with the effective representation they need for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Same-Sex Couples, Custody Rights, and Timesharing in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 21, 2015
Three Parents? Florida Judge Allows Biological Father on Birth Certificate with Lesbian Parents, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 19, 2013
Photo Credit: Rhythmnation2004, [CC0 License], via Wikimedia Commons