Focus: Parents’ sexual orientation and child custody cases

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Child Custody on Monday, May 5, 2014.

A recent media article on gay and lesbian parents cites the lack of empirical data to confirm that such a parent having custody rights over a child is inimical to that child’s development. Notwithstanding the absence of any such evidence, though, the publication The Guardian notes that courts and lawmakers sometimes “make that false assumption.”

And when they do, states the paper, marked injustice can result in child custody cases.

One offered example from Mississippi might be of interest to many of our readers in Illinois, Missouri, and elsewhere, as well as shock them.

In a case there, a teenage boy called authorities to report a threat of violence aimed at him and his mother by his stepfather, a convicted felon with a history of violent conduct. The boy’s father, a gay man, filed for custody rights to protect his son.

The case ultimately ended up before that state’s Supreme Court, which, in a 6-3 ruling, ruled against the gay parent. The court’s ruling stated that the so-called “straight” household was a comparatively suitable environment for the boy, regardless of its violent nature.

New laws have emerged in recent years to dampen discrimination against gay parents, but those enactments are far from universal. The Guardian notes that many legislators and courts continue to view a parent’s sexuality as a factor in assessing fitness in custody cases and in other family law matters.

In a new report from Drexel University, study authors state that research consistently conveys that a parent’s sexuality “doesn’t have much effect on how your kids turn out.”

More courts need to readily subscribe to those findings, the researchers say, and lawmakers need to draft enactments that curtail judges’ discretion when they seek to consider sexual orientation as a factor in custody cases.

Source: The Guardian, “For gay and lesbian parents, equality is a myth when it comes to custody cases,’ Steven W. Thrasher, April 21, 2014

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