Texas law is well-settled regarding parental rights between a man and a woman who have conceived or adopted a child. But Texas law as it applies to same-sex couples who wish to become parents is less understood and quickly evolving.
An experienced family law attorney like James S. Ball can assist same-sex couples who want to become parents in understanding and asserting their rights as parents or prospective parents and help them navigate the uncertain legal landscape they may face.
Contact James S. Bell as soon as possible to learn about your rights and options for same-sex custody or adoption.
Parental Rights for Same-Sex Couples in Texas
In many cases, one member of a same-sex couple will father or give birth to a child, making them the biological parent. The most common way for the other partner or spouse to become the child’s parent is through adoption. He or she could also be the child’s parent through presumption if he or she is married to the biological parent at the time of the child’s birth.
It is also possible for an individual to be declared the legal father of a child by the court. In order to be certain which options are available for your situation, speak with a Dallas family law attorney as soon as possible.
Understanding Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Relationships
Texas law requires that all decisions regarding custody of a child be made in the “best interests of the child.” This is true whether the parents to that child are married or not.
A key issue in child custody for same-sex couples is ensuring that both partners in the same-sex relationship have parental rights to the child. A person must have parental rights to the child before they have legal standing to enforce custody and visitation rights.
If one of the partners is the biological parent, then he or she would naturally be considered a legal parent. If the child was adopted by the couple together – or if the non-biological parent legally adopted the child – then both parents have legal standing and can pursue custody and visitation.
But issues of parental rights arise when only one of the partners is a legal parent (whether biological or adoptive) and the other partner has acted as a parental figure and loves the child, but has no legal standing. This can put the non-biological parent’s right to custody in question despite having cared for the child for so long.
But recent rulings by Texas courts have opened the door for a non-biological parent who supports and cares for partner’s child to pursue custody and/or visitation rights with regard to that child. A qualified, experienced family law attorney like James S. Bell can assist you in asserting your rights under these new legal rulings.
Reaching a Child Custody Agreement
In almost all child custody cases, though, whether they involve gay or straight couples, it’s prudent to try to work out an agreement outside of court. Making this choice can help save time and money, ensure an agreement is reached that works for both parents as well as the child, and may help ease the emotional strain on the children. Nobody wins when engaging in months or even years of contentious legal battles.
Mediation might be a solution for those who are facing this type of case. In mediation, the parties sit down with a licensed mediator and address their issues in a calm and civil way. The goal is to come to a mutually acceptable agreement, and to write that agreement into a legal document to which both parties will adhere.
In Dallas, a family law lawyer at James S. Bell can assist those going through a custody dispute. An attorney can help pursue an out-of-court agreement, can assist in mediation, or can help if the case must go to trial to decide the same-sex couple child custody dispute.