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Same-Sex Family Law Matters: LGBTQ+ Rights and Protections in California

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In California's diverse and progressive landscape, same-sex family law matters and LGBTQ+ rights hold a profound significance that resonates within the state and nationwide. As societal attitudes have evolved over the years, so too have the legal protections and rights afforded to LGBTQ+ individuals and families. This transformation has been instrumental in dismantling barriers, challenging prejudices, and fostering a more inclusive society.

At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we recognize the importance of these legal matters in the lives of our LGBTQ+ clients. As a family law firm in Los Angeles, California, we have witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of progressive legislation and landmark court decisions that have shaped the rights and protections of LGBTQ+ families. Through this article, we aim to shed light on the crucial legal aspects that safeguard the rights of LGBTQ+ families in the Golden State.

Please contact us at (310) 817-6904 if you need legal assistance.

Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages

California has come a long way in affirming LGBTQ+ rights. Since 2013, same-sex couples have had the legal right to marry in the state, marking a historic milestone in the fight for marriage equality. A landmark decision in which Proposition 8 was invalidated was pivotal, effectively lifting the ban on recognizing same-sex marriages in California.

Marriage in California offers a range of rights and benefits to same-sex couples, ensuring they are entitled to the same legal protections as their heterosexual counterparts. The marriage process is relatively straightforward—couples need to obtain a marriage license from the registrar or county clerk to formalize their union. Additionally, California recognizes marriages legally performed in other states, extending the same rights and responsibilities to those unions as if they were conducted within California's borders.

Like any married couple, same-sex spouses may face the challenging decision of divorce. Should they wish to end their marriage, they must initiate a court case and meet the state's residency requirements. As California acknowledges same-sex marriages performed in the state, it's essential to be aware that if a couple relocates to a state that does not recognize same-sex divorces, they can still file for divorce in the California county where they initially married. Nonetheless, matters like property division or support may become complex in such cases due to differing legal standards between states.

In addition to marriage, California also offers domestic partnership options for LGBTQ+ couples. Governed by California Family Code § 297, domestic partnerships extend legal recognition to two unmarried adults living in an intimate and committed relationship. These partnerships provide individuals with the same rights, protections, benefits, responsibilities, and obligations as married couples (California Family Code § 297.5). Despite these similarities, domestic partners are not considered legally married for federal tax purposes.

Adoption and Parental Rights for LGBTQ+ Couples

The journey toward parenthood is a joyous and transformative experience for any couple, and LGBTQ+ couples in California are no exception. Fortunately, the legal process for LGBTQ+ couples to adopt a child in the state is governed by inclusive and progressive laws that aim to eliminate discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for all prospective parents.

Adoption Through the Foster Care System

California's Non-Discrimination Act AB 458 is a significant milestone, explicitly prohibiting discrimination in the foster care system based on sexual orientation. This essential legislation ensures that LGBTQ+ couples are given fair and equal consideration when seeking to adopt a child through the foster care system.

LGBTQ Individuals and Adoption

Moreover, the California Family Code § 8802 lays the foundation for adoption rights by affirming that any adult person listed in the statute may adopt a child. This inclusive provision opens the doors for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples to embark on the adoption journey, extending the opportunity for loving families to grow and flourish.

Presumed Parentage of Married LGBTQ+ Couples

For LGBTQ+ couples in a same-sex marriage or domestic partnership at the time of the child's conception or birth, the legal recognition as presumed parents is heartening. This recognition grants them the same rights and responsibilities as birth parents, reaffirming their roles as loving and devoted parents in the eyes of the law.

Path to Establishing Parentage for Unmarried LGBTQ+ Couples

Unmarried LGBTQ+ couples can also establish parentage under the Uniform Parentage Act, a vital legal avenue for same-sex parents who have a child through assisted reproduction. Through the Voluntary Declaration of Parentage process, these couples can establish legal parentage for the non-biological parent, securing their rightful place as a recognized and respected parent.

If the non-biological parent does not sign the declaration, they can still pursue their parental rights by obtaining a court order. This judicial process ensures that the child's best interests are protected while affirming the non-biological parent's parental role.

Rights and Responsibilities of LGBTQ+ Parents

Regardless of whether LGBTQ+ parents are biological, adoptive, or non-biological parents, the rights and responsibilities they assume depend on appropriate legal channels being followed or their specific situation being recognized in the statute. California's commitment to inclusivity ensures that LGBTQ+ parents can assume their parental roles with confidence and love, without fear of discrimination or prejudice.

Parental Rights in Dissolution of Same-Sex Relationships

When a same-sex relationship ends in dissolution, LGBTQ+ parents may encounter legal complexities requiring careful attention. Issues such as custody, visitation rights, and child support demand thoughtful consideration to ensure that the child's well-being remains the top priority.

Establishing parental rights and crafting comprehensive custody arrangements are critical steps in divorce or separation. By doing so, LGBTQ+ parents can secure their legal standing as a parent and outline the roles and responsibilities aligning with their child's best interests.

In California family courts, the child's well-being takes precedence in custody disputes. Judges consider a wide range of factors when making custody decisions.

Some of the factors the court may look at include:

  • The child's age
  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable and loving home environment
  • The child's own preferences if they are of an appropriate age to express them

Upholding Equality and Empowering LGBTQ+ Families in California

Through open communication and understanding, our team at Claery & Hammond, LLP aims to empower LGBTQ+ parents to make informed decisions during the dissolution process. We recognize the emotional toll that divorce or separation can take on families, and we are here to provide unwavering support and practical legal guidance every step of the way.

Schedule a consultation with one of our Los Angeles lawyers by calling (310) 817-6904.

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