LGBTQ persons have more family-related legal rights and opportunities than ever before. With the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, gay, lesbian, and queer couples’ right to marriage was recognized. Thereafter, the legal processes previously reserved and designed only for heterosexual or “traditional” families were available for these newly recognized legal relationships. Despite having the benefit of constitutionally recognized marriage, LGBTQ couples are experiencing the unique complications of outdated, gender-based laws and a process ill-equipped for the diversity required by LGBTQ participants. 

None of this is to say there is no progress for the LGBTQ community in the area of family law. The ability to exercise marital and parental rights for LGBTQ persons has never been more accessible. However, special understanding and experience are necessary to provide effective legal representation as family law necessarily evolves to be more inclusive. 

The attorneys at Stiles Ewing Powers have extensive experience in LGBT family law and proven success at helping LGBTQ clients through the family law process, whether it is forming new family relationships, dissolving a marriage, establishing custody and visitation for their minor children, or preparing estate planning documents to grant decision-making authority or inheritance rights to partners. 

LGBTQ Clients and Family Formation Law

Legal recognition of same-sex marriages and medical technology have made it easier to establish legal parental relationships between same-sex couples and children, either conceived via assisted reproduction technology or legal adoption proceedings. 

However, experienced legal representation is necessary to address the unique challenges faced by same-sex and trans-partner couples. For example, many states’ adoption laws have not been updated to recognize two parents of the same sex. Also, some states require additional validating documents when two parents of the same sex are listed on a child’s birth certificate. Evolving case precedent changes each case’s processes, names, and requirements. 

Same-sex and trans-partner couples necessarily need a genetic donor, for either the egg or sperm, to conceive a child. Some couples require a surrogate, or gestational carrier, to carry their baby. These additional legal relationships require a special understanding of the family formation process. 

At Stiles Ewing Powers, we have lawyers with experience and proven success at counseling LGBTQ clients through this process and navigating the unique challenges they encounter on their family formation journey. 

LGBTQ Clients and Marriage Dissolution 

Contemporaneous with the legal recognition of same-sex marriage came the same-sex divorce. Fortunately, much of the process for the dissolution of a marriage and equitable distribution of property, whether same or different sex, is consistent. The practice of divorce, on the other hand, includes components unique to the LGBTQ community. 

For example, same-sex marriages are often of modern formation, meaning they warrant modern dissolution. The traditional approach to divorce is derivative of antiquated gender roles and presumptions. While less apparent and even disfavored generally, these gender-based norms can be especially aggravating when applied to an LGBTQ divorce. 

The legal system favors consistency and accuracy. Oftentimes, trans and intersex persons struggle with being misidentified or misgendered during the legal process. While often done unintentionally, it can be disempowering. 

Experienced legal counsel at Stiles Ewing Powers recognizes and works to neutralize any prejudices or biases in a divorce in which an LGBTQ person is a party to give the client the respectful representation within the legal system they deserve. 

LGBTQ Clients and Custody/Visitation Cases

The societal acceptance of, and legal advancements for, LGBTQ persons have provided more opportunities for these couples to raise their own children. Moreover, there are regular occasions in which a parent begins identifying as LGBTQ later in life. Either way, they need legal representation if a court is asked to determine the custody and visitation arrangement in their child’s best interests. 

Custody and Visitation proceedings are generally difficult. They are emotionally, economically, and personally taxing. For the LGBTQ parent, it can have additional challenges relating to the parent’s identity, relationships, and lifestyle if they are not fully understood. 

Experienced lawyers at Stiles Ewing Powers are aware that preconceived notions of identity and gender are harmful, especially when they relate to children. Accordingly, they approach these cases prepared to educate participants and provide resources that will support the child. 

LGBTQ Clients and Estate Planning

Effective estate planning is important for all people but can be particularly important for people in the LGBTQ community. Gender norms and family objections can complicate situations where an LGBTQ person is unable to make medical or financial decisions for themselves due to incapacity. The death of an LGBTQ person can ignite disputes amongst the family regarding the distribution of that person’s estate and whether to include a surviving partner. If a couple does not get legally married, the decision-making and inheritance rights of a partner may be limited by law or could be granted to someone the incapacitated or deceased person does not wish to hold that power. 

The LGBT family lawyers at Stiles Ewing Powers can help LGBTQ persons develop an estate plan that fits their specific situation and desires, with an appreciation for the unique challenges the person may face.