It is hard enough to navigate the legal system without the inherent bias and added complications that exist when you are part of an LGBTQ+ couple. Luckily, you do not have to figure it all out on your own. A thorough and compassionate family law attorney can help you, regardless of your needs. Below are some of the most common questions our Texas family law firm gets from same-sex couples.
- What are the options for LGBTQ+ divorce?
LGBTQ+ couples always have the option to go to court and have a litigated divorce, however, it is often in their best interest to take a more amicable approach. Alternatives to traditional divorce include uncontested divorce, mediated divorce, and collaborative divorce. These processes, if used successfully, can allow couples to avoid court completely, in addition to significantly expediting the timeline of their divorce while also reducing the cost. Some courts will actually require couples to try mediation before they proceed to litigation because it reduces the burden on the court when couples can resolve these issues outside of it.
- What are the benefits of mediated divorce for gay couples?
There are a number of benefits to a mediation divorce for LGBTQ+ couples. While gay couples have all the legal rights of heterosexual couples, many still experience bias in the courtroom, so handing your fate over to a cisgendered heterosexual judge from another generation can be a very concerning option. Mediation gives both parents the greatest amount of control over the ultimate outcome and provides a neutral third-party mediator who is trained in conflict resolution and can keep both parties focused on the best interest of their child. It can also help them develop productive skills for maintaining a healthy and collaborative co-parenting relationship moving forward.
- How does child custody work for same-sex couples?
If the couple is married or has equal legal rights to the child (through legal adoption) then child custody can be determined through a number of means. Ideally, the couple will be able to come to a decision on custody themselves or with the help of a mediator so that they can avoid the courtroom and have the most amount of control over the decision. Sometimes LGBTQ+ couples report that bias affects custody outcomes, so maintaining control over the process can be critical. Mediation also keeps all information related to the proceedings private, whereas anything litigated in court becomes a matter of public record.
- How is child support determined for LGBTQ+ couples?
The best way to determine child support for an LGBTQ+ couple is between the two of them. Even if you and your partner generally have trouble coming to an agreement, mediation is a supportive process that can provide a neutral third-party to help guide you to a mutually agreeable resolution. This process can allow you to avoid court, keep things cordial for your child, limit your time and expense related to the divorce and custody process, and allow you to come to an agreement that you feel good about.
- Do LGBTQ+ couples have to pay spousal support?
Just like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples may have to pay spousal support following a legal marriage and divorce. The amount of spousal support is determined based on the need of one party and the other party’s ability to pay, or they may have already agreed to a specific amount in a prenuptial agreement. If the parties cannot agree to an amount, the court can decide if and how much to order based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage and any career-sacrifices made on behalf of the relationship by either party.
- Are there alternatives to marriage for LGBTQ+ couples?
Although gay and LGBTQ+ marriage is now legally recognized, so same-sex couples have the right to marry, legal marriage has a checkered and exclusionary past with the LGBTQ+ community that leads many couples to want no part of it. Not to worry, there are legal alternatives available including domestic partnerships and cohabitation agreements.
- How can my same-sex partner become our child’s parent?
While it may be frustrating not to be able to both write your name on the birth certificate, same-sex parents can both become their child’s legal parent through adoption, it just takes a bit of extra legal maneuvering which an LGBTQ+ family law attorney can easily assist you with.
- How can my same-sex partner make medical decisions for me?
LGBTQ+ marriage is federally recognized, so you have a right to see your spouse in the hospital and make medical decisions for them if they are incapacitated in most cases (barring covid precautions and other necessary reasons). If you are not married, or you are in a situation where a specific facility is refusing to acknowledge your relationship, being your partner’s power of attorney is a good workaround. A family law attorney can help you execute this, along with a healthcare directive and other necessary documents.
- Should same-sex couples get a prenuptial agreement?
Yes, there are significant benefits to same-sex couples getting a prenuptial agreement, particularly for couples who have been together a long time but have only recently been able to marry legally. If they were later to separate the law would only take into account the years that they were married, so a prenuptial agreement gives them an ability to create their own terms which honor the actual length of their commitment. Prenuptial agreements also allow partners to protect their individual assets and businesses and clarify expectations for the relationship.
- What are the benefits of a postnuptial agreement for LGBTQ+ couples?
There are many benefits to a postnuptial agreement even if your marriage is thriving. Life changes happen and as your life, career, and relationship evolves you may have legal needs that have to be addressed to best support everything you are working to build. This is especially important in Texas since it is a community property state. You will want to be sure to make a postnuptial agreement specifying that any business you are creating is your separate property. If you have children or make significant acquisitions or one partner decides to leave their career to manage the household or care for shared children these are all also reasons to create a postnuptial agreement.
- How does asset distribution work for LGBTQ+ couples?
Texas is a community property state, which means that any assets or income acquired during the course of the marriage by either spouse, is considered the equal property of both spouses. Because LGBTQ+ marriage is federally recognized, asset distribution works no differently than it would for heterosexual couples. All assets and debts must be accounted for, and then the property must be divided equally. All assets considered separate property remain the separate property of each spouse after the divorce.
Contact the LGBTQ+ Family Law Attorneys at the Covington Law Firm
If you are in need of assistance with an LGBTQ+ family law matter, our attorneys want to hear from you. Contact the Covington Law Firm. located in Richmond, Texas, and schedule your personalized consultation today.