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On child custody issues in same-sex marriages

Many same-sex couples living in Georgia were delighted when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that same-sex marriages were legal across the country. However, the expanding definition of marriage under state and federal law has led to unforeseen ramifications in family courts.

Although the Supreme Court has made it clear that same-sex marriages are to be given the same status by law as heterosexual marriages, this does not necessarily shed light on parenting and custody issues. For example, the same-sex parents of a child may experience difficulty if they have a divorce and seek to divide custody and visitation rights. This is especially true when the relationship between the spouses has become adversarial. If the law lacks a specific mechanism to recognize a non-biological parent, then that parent may have to fight for their custodial rights in court.

Even if they have been involved with the child since birth, and the child in question recognizes the parent as their mother or father, if they are not the biological mother or father, then there is a possibility that they may be relegated to a secondary role during any custody dispute. There have been cases where a parent who had previously enjoyed full custodial rights lost all status, even to the point of not being able to see the child.

A person who is struggling to obtain custody or visitation rights over a child may find the assistance of an attorney who has experience in family law to be essential. Legal counsel might recommend mediation as a way of avoiding protracted court proceedings.

Source: ABC News, "Same-Sex Adoption Case Challenges What It Means to Be Parent", Adam Beam, Dec. 7, 2015

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