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Appellate court puts Texas same-sex divorce on hold

A family court judge ruled last week that the Texas ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. The ruling came in a Texas divorce case. That ruling was quickly placed on hold by an appellate court while the matter goes up on appeal. The recent state court ruling was not exactly a direct challenge to the ban on same-sex marriage, per se. It was in response to a motion to dismiss a divorce and child-custody dispute in family court.

The issue arose in a divorce case filed in San Antonio in February. Two women were married in 2010 in the nation’s capital city. In early 2013 one of the women gave birth to a child who had been conceived through artificial insemination. Roughly one year later, the woman who had not given birth filed for divorce in Texas, seeking joint custody of the child.

The woman who gave birth to the child asked the family court to throw out the divorce and child custody proceeding based upon Texas law and the state Constitution. Last Tuesday, the family court judge denied the request and allowed the divorce to proceed.

Sources say that the trial court judge reasoned, in part, the dismissing the family court case would not be in the best interests of the child in the child custody dispute. The judge says that the child would be denied equal protection of the law in dismissing the dispute.

In addition to the child custody issue, the family court judge pointed to a recent decision of a federal judge who found the Texas ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional; our Dallas area readers may recall that we discussed the federal court ruling in February.

The Texas attorney general stepped in last week and asked the Fourth Court of Appeals to halt the ruling of the trial court judge. The appellate court placed a stay on the family court ruling while the appellate court considers the issue. The attorney general is asking the appellate court to vacate the ruling as being outside of the trial court judge’s authority.

Family court issues, especially those involving child custody disputes, can be contentious in many ways. As today’s story highlights, legal issues can be involved in many areas of family law.

Source: American-Statesman, “Texas appeals court halts ruling in gay-divorce case,” Chuck Lindell, April 24, 2014

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