Legal rights for same-sex couples in Georgia have been rapidly changing over the past year. A little over a year ago a Supreme Court ruling made same-sex marriage legal in Georgia. The ruling created new opportunities for couples in both marriage and as parents. In between rapidly changing legalities it can be difficult to know how same-sex parental rights are handled in court.
Before the "Marriage Equality" decision in 2015, child custody typically fell on whoever was recognized as the parent under law. At that time a child could only be considered for custody under guardianship, adoption, or by biological parents. This made it very difficult for same-sex couples with children. Issues arose when couples separated and one could be denied custody because they were not the biological mother or father. Family law is still difficult for same-sex couples in 2016 but the legal landscape quickly changing.
Custody for same-sex parents can get tricky because the court has to blend old and new laws which can contradict each other. Mediation is a great alternative. Legal mediation can help you both come to a compromise with the aid of an attorney outside the court room. Legal fees are lower and the process is less stressful. Mediation cannot always work for every couple so some need the help of a judge.
Custody for married same-sex couples
Equal marriage rights have allowed for a more equal playing field when battling child custody. If one spouse is the biological parent and the other is married to them then they both have a chance at gaining child custody. The non-biological parent can go through a standard step-parent process and have equal rights under Georgia law. This is also the case if a child was adopted into a same-sex family. If brought to court then a judge can determine custody in the best interest of the child.
Custody for non-married same-sex couples
Local courts still tend to favor biological connections to children but there are some other factors to consider. A parenting agreement can be enforceable similarly to a contract. Trial court can consider an agreement between two people when deciding the fate of the child's custody. The court would consider how much time each party spent with the child and make a decision based on what is best for the child.
Georgia is one of the 14 states which include second parent adoptions for unmarried LGBT couples. Second parent adoption gives a child two legal guardians and both parents are given legal parental status. Second parent adoptions are petitioning for equal parental rights with either a biological or an adoptive parent. Once a second parent adoption is final then both parents would have equal chances at custody after separation.
It is difficult to predict how a court will rule on same-sex parental custody because laws are fresh and evolving. It is important to have an attorney skilled in the child custody laws of Georgia at your side.