Since 2015 when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, the effects have rippled across the landscape of family law.
Family law can be complicated and with the evolving laws regarding marriage and divorce, a family law attorney can be a huge asset in protecting your rights. There are several key areas that same-sex couples may find legal representation helpful, if not necessary.
Adoption & Custody of Biological Children
“Gay men and lesbians have always adopted, although their sexual orientation may not always have been in the open. Today, openly gay and lesbian men and women are being considered more seriously as potential adoptive parents. This change has been aided by the increase in the number of gay and lesbian biological parents in the United States,” according to findlaw.com. “As of this last decade, an estimated 6 to 14 million children have a gay or lesbian parent. And, between 8 and 10 million children are being raised in gay and lesbian households.”
Adoption is a common family law issue for same-sex couples that wish to have children. Couples will need to enlist the services of a family law attorney in order to complete the adoption process. If one spouse is the biological parent, they are automatically granted full parental rights, however the non-biological parent may not be granted the same rights. In these cases, a family law attorney can help navigate the adoption process in order for both parents to have full parental rights.
“Estate planning is still something that few families spend enough time thinking about, much less enacting. But estate planning is vital, especially when there are children and sizable assets involved,” says an article on fidelity.com. The same article lists three important things for same-sex couples to know about estate planning:
- If you die without a will, your state may not recognize your partner as your natural heir. Make sure you have an estate plan in place.
- Your spouse may be the default beneficiary for your 401(k) plans, even if other individuals were named as beneficiaries prior to marriage. However, this does not apply to IRAs, so review your beneficiary designations regularly.
- Same-sex married couples can gift or pass an unlimited amount of assets or property to each other without needing to use any gift or estate tax exemptions.
An estate plan that includes wills, trusts, guardianship of children and power of attorney will help enforce your rights. Be sure to review these periodically to ensure they are up to date and accurate, it’s not something you can “set and forget” indefinitely. It’s especially important to update these documents any time a major life change happens.
While it’s unpleasant to think about or consider the possibility of divorce, it would be even less pleasant to go through one without a trusted family law attorney to help you through the process. “Along with the right to marry in every state, marriage equality laws also gave couples the right to divorce, regardless of where they live. But, in some cases, the divorce process can become very complicated,” according to divorcenet.com. The intricacies of family law regarding divorce can become much less overwhelming to sift through with the right family law attorney. Charlotte Christian is that attorney.