Most couples who make plans to have a child assume that their relationship is solid and in no danger of falling apart. And for a good percentage of those couples, that assumption will prove correct. But for those unions that do unravel, there are legal protections in place to ensure that both parents will have access to the child after the relationship ends -- unless the state doesn't recognize your relationship as legal. For same-sex couples in Texas, this can be a serious problem.
A Dallas woman fighting for child custody of her former partner's son has learned the hard way that non-biological parents have few legal rights to custody and visitation in states that don't recognize their relationship to the child's birth parent. But by taking some proactive steps early on, she says, other parents -- or prospective parents -- may have an easier time.
The woman and her partner were together for seven years before they decided to have a child together. They decided her partner would be the biological mother. But less than a year after their son was born, the couple broke up. Understandably, the woman wanted regular visitation with the boy, but her former partner refused. And because she has no biological connection to him, the woman has no legal standing to fight for visitation or custody.
The woman says she wanted to complete a second-parent adoption soon after the boy was born, an option strongly recommended for any couple in which one person isn't a biological parent. But her partner was reluctant.
The woman's attorneys say that same-sex couples who have a child together should begin the adoption process as soon as possible after the child is born. Even though Texas doesn't recognize same-sex marriage, judges across the state are coming to the realization that families come in many different packages, and many will carry out second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples.
But because no one can predict what will happen after the birth -- a relationship can quickly break down amid the stress and exhaustion of parenthood -- it's even better if a couple can put legal protections in place long before the child arrives. In our next post, we'll discuss those protections and how they can benefit everyone in the family, whether they stay together or not.
Source: Dallas Voice, "Unplanned parenthood," David Taffet, Feb. 1, 2013 9:13 am
- Our firm handles a wide range family law matters for Texas residents. To learn more about our practice, visit our Dallas child custody page.