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Psychological parent's rights recognized in same-sex divorce

Although the wheels are slowly turning toward equality in laws relating to same-sex marriage and divorce in California, child custody seems to remain an area presenting problems that can scar children and partners of a same-sex marriage that ends in separation. The language of laws related to child custody currently recognizes mainly the rights of the parent who gave birth to the child. Couples in California who are considering a same-sex divorce may be interested in a recent appeals court hearing in another state.

The birth-mother of an 18-month-old child tried to prevent her ex-partner in a domestic relationship from seeing the child for whom the two women cared as parents. The stepmother appealed after losing a claim seeking visitation and custodial rights in a trial court. However, the appeals court recognized the stepmother's rights, although she has no legal or biological ties to the little boy. It acknowledged the fact that all families, both heterosexual and same-sex, are unique and have different dynamics. Children who are torn away from a psychological relationship with a parent -- even where no biological ties exist -- can be severely traumatized.

The appeals court determined that a guardian who has developed a parent-child relationship with a child after caring for him or her for a considerable period may be regarded as a psychological parent. This can be regardless of whether the individual was married to the child’s parent or any other scenario. The appeals court ruled that the stepmother would not be denied visitation.

California couples who want to protect a child from the trauma of severing relationships may benefit from the assistance of a mediator to avoid unpleasant and ongoing litigation. The input of an objective third-party may afford the parties of a same-sex divorce the opportunity to an amicable split while protecting the interest of the child. While awaiting full equality in the laws related to divorce, communication and compromise may serve same-sex couples well.

Source:, "Lesbian Stepmom Wins Custody Rights as 'Psychological Parent'", Mitch Kellaway, Aug. 11, 2014

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