Can A Second Parent See The Child After Termination Of A Same-Sex Relationship?
- October 16, 2013
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In New Jersey, many may wonder about what happens to the second parent in the event that same-sex couple’s relationship ends. In truth, since New Jersey does not recognize marriage equality, if the couple were raising a child, this situation may cause a problem. The legal status of the non-legal or non-biological parent may be jeopardized when it comes to issues of child custody. When heterosexual couples break up, the courts will intervene to order an equitable resolution to child custody issues. Same-sex couples do not automatically have these legal protections available to them. In some instances, the courts may even find that the second parent in the dissolved gay and lesbian relationship has no rights even if he or she has spent years raising the child. In fact, courts may be inclined to award full custody to the legal/biological parent who would then have the legal authority to prevent the second parent from having any contact with the child that he or she loved as though the child were their own. The Family Court has the discretion to render decisions based upon what is within the child’s best interests. Therefore, some courts may award an LGBT second parent with some visitation rights if it is found that the second parent was such an important figure in the child’s life that it would be within the child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with the second parent. In many cases, these second parents have served the responsibilities of being a full parent to the child and depriving contact with the child would likely result in more harm to that child than good. Further, the court may look to such factors as 1) the duration of the relationship between the same-sex parents and how long the child was a part of the second parent’s life before the parties’ relationship ended; 2) whether the natural parent nurtured the relationship between the child and the second parent and 3) whether the second parent assumed the duties of child rearing to an appreciable degree. In sum, the answer to the question “What happens to the relationship between the child and a second parent when a same-sex relationship ends” is not one that is easily answered. To protect their parental rights a gay or lesbian second parent should adopt. In the alternative, although providing less security for their rights a parent, they may wish to enter into a parenting time or custody agreement with the legal/biological parent to provide guidance for the courts in the event that the relationship one day dissolves. If you are involved in a custody dispute, whether in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship, it is critical that you seek advice from experienced legal counsel. For more information about civil unions, parenting time, custody and visitation, child support, same-sex relationship dissolution or other family law matters in New Jersey visit NJCivilUnionLaw.com and HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and in no way intended to replace the advice of an attorney.