Same-Sex Custody: A Changeable Landscape

Drexel University, Illinois custody disputes, Illinois family law attorney, judicial custody ruling, Professor Kirk Heilbrun, Religious Freedom-Marriage Act, same-sex, same-sex custody, same-sex marriage rights, same-sex relationships, same-sex union, sexual orientationEnacted November 20, 2013, the Religious Freedom-Marriage Act takes effect on June 1st, 2014. Same-sex marriage, including marriage in other states, will be treated identically with heterosexual marriage. Divorce will be legal in Illinois, and with it, unique challenges with regards to child custody. As initial custody judgments may not be modified for two years, it is vital to work through the process with a well-qualified attorney.

According to The New York Times, a “marriage spring” is dawning nationwide, with over 50 challenges to uphold the marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples. As these changes accelerate, more and more couples with children will find themselves not only in marriage, but divorce as well.

Although numerous studies have shown the prejudice that regards same-sex couples as unfit parents has no empirical foundation, couples may face difficulties in divorce proceedings; sexual orientation may be regarded, in a judicial custody ruling, as passing the “adverse effect” test of producing harm to the child. Or, worse yet, in some jurisdictions judges may entirely disregard the need to show an “adverse effect” connection, and simply rule based on sexual orientation by itself.

new review by Drexel University recognizes that same-sex couples are as effective at parenting as heterosexuals, and that their children are as well-adjusted as their peers. Professor Kirk Heilbrun states, “There’s been a sea-change within the past five to 10 years … there are more people in same-sex relationships that have been legitimized by society … more children involved in custody disputes … this has become an increasingly relevant issue and one that needs to be addressed.” More researchers and advocates are calling for clear legal rights for non-heterosexual couples.

For those performing psychological evaluations, and for those presiding, an understanding of current relevant research and law is needed to inform decisions involving custody amongst same-sex partners. Choosing an attorney with a background in this field is an important step for your own case.

If you have questions regarding a same-sex union or child custody, contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney today at 630-409-8184.

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