Fulton Same-Sex Child Custody/Support
Fulton Same-Sex Child Custody and Support Lawyers
New legal protections for the children of gay and lesbian couples when the marriage or relationship ends
Gay and lesbian couples can now be legally married throughout the United States. They can also become adoptive parents. If one parent is the natural parent, their spouse or partner is eligible to adopt the child if the standard criteria for adoption are met. Most of the same concerns that apply to heterosexual parents apply to same-sex couple who have children and who dissolve their marriage or end a relationship. Caring and loving parents need to create parenting plans and establish legal and physical custody rights. It is also imperative that the couples agree to a child support plan to ensure the children are financially secure.
The Fulton same-sex divorce attorneys at McCabe Russell, PA, are dedicated to meeting the legal needs of our clients. Our lawyers have helped many same-sex couples understand their rights, and the new and changing laws for same-sex parents. We are proud to negotiate fair agreements, represent clients in mediation and try cases in court when necessary. As with all custody and support cases, we begin with the fundamental premise that the child’s best interests come first.
How is parenthood defined in same-sex couple relationships?
There are many different ways in which parenthood can be recognized in same-sex relationships:
- A biological mother or biological father is automatically a legal parent.
- A non-biological mother can be named as a co-parent on the birth certificate.
- A non-biological spouse can adopt the child.
- Both non-biological parents can adopt a child who was born to different birth parents.
In a 2016 case, the Maryland Court of Appeals gave same-sex parents new rights. The court ruled that a non-biological parent can be a de facto parent who has custody and visitation rights; however, “the legal parent must consent to and foster the relationship between the third party and the child; the third party must have lived with the child; the third party must perform parental functions for the child to a significant degree; and most important, a parent-child bond must be forged.” (Conover v. Conover)
Understanding custody and child support for divorced or unwed same-sex parents
There are two types of custody in Maryland. Parents can have legal custody and/or physical custody. Legal custody is the authority to make major decisions for the child, such as education, medical needs and religion. Physical custody determines where the child resides and who provides the daily care. As with heterosexual couples, same-sex couples can have shared custody or sole custody. This shared or sole right applies to both legal and physical custody.
Just as in other custody cases, the parents need to create a parenting plan or obtain a court order that:
- Addresses the legal and physical custody status
- Addresses many practical issues, such as how the transfer of the child from one parent to the other will be achieved
- Establishes the visitation rights of a non-physical custodial parent
- Sets forth how future disputes will be handled
If the couple is unable to come to a parenting plan agreement on their own, the court will create one and they will be bound by it. Generally speaking, custody orders cannot be modified unless there is a significant change in circumstances. The same is true for child support orders.
How is child support calculated in Maryland?
With parenthood comes responsibilities. All parents have a duty to support their children. In Howard County divorces and separations, the court uses strict, statutory guidelines to determine how much child support the alternate custodial parent should pay. The amount of support is calculated based on the incomes of the parents, the time the children spend with each parent, a few special factors such as health insurance, and the number of children the couple has.
What happens if the parents or unmarried couple is unable to agree about child custody and visitation?
It is to their benefit if parents can find a way to work out a custody and visitation plan for their child. Otherwise, the court will determine which parent gets custody and which parent will have visitation (or how the parents will share custody). The court can require the parties to participate in mediation to resolve their differences. Rather than represent either of the parties, the mediator's role is to be a neutral facilitator whose role is to guide the parties towards resolving their differences and finding common ground on which to base their custody agreement.
Contact our Maple Lawn and Fulton same-sex child custody and support lawyers today
At McCabe Russell, PA, we work to help parents and children understand their rights and options when the parents live apart. Children thrive best when the parents put the best interests of their child first. We are adept at negotiating and litigating same-sex child custody and support cases. When necessary, we, and the court, recognize that psychological evaluations may be needed in contested cases. For help now, please call us at 443-812-1435 or fill out our contact form.
8171 Maple Lawn Blvd
Fulton, Maryland 20759
Phone: (443) 812-1435