Written by attorney Christopher M. Migliaccio

Same-Sex Couples and Child Custody in Texas

Same-sex couples may run into child custody issues when splitting up just like any other couple. However, same-sex couples may face additional child custody obstacles if one of the partners is a biological parent of the child.

Whether or not the non-biological parent adopted the child will play a role in the custody dispute under Texas child custody laws, which a same-sex parent fighting for custody should discuss with a Plano family law lawyer.

Understanding Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Relationships

Under Texas child custody laws, the standard is to make decisions that are in “the best interests of the child;" this holds true whether the parents are married or not. But parental rights are also a major issue.

The court must determine who has parental rights. If one of the partners is the biological parent, than 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.

Things get tricky 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.

However, a recent court battle at the Dallas 5th District Court of Appeals involving a same-sex couple in a child custody battle established that non-biological same-sex parents may petition for child custody.

A non-biological parent who helped raise her former partner’s biological daughter from birth was awarded the right to pursue custody, but eventually ended her battle after several years. Still, the ruling may open the door for non-biological parents who support and care for a partner’s child to pursue custody.

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 Plano, a family law lawyer at Warren & Migliaccio 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.

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