NYC Gay & LGBT Family Law Lawyers
In the past two decades or so, the United States has seen a massive cultural and legal shift regarding the rights of LGBT community members. New York in particular has evolved regarding gay rights. The most significant difference is the right of LGBT community members to marry their chosen partners in all of the United States.
With these new rights comes the potential for new legal complications. Family law is rapidly developing insights and practices to represent people in same-sex marriages. If you’re seeking a family law attorney to represent you as an LGBT client, you should consider the following factors before making your decision:
Experience With LGBT Clients
It’s not necessary for a lawyer who works with LGBT community members to be a member of the community themselves. However, they should have experience with the representation of LGBT clients. Growing numbers of New York attorneys have negotiated family law and other agreements for their LGBT clients. Because the rights of LGBT people have been so recently granted, and aren’t universally guaranteed, a lawyer who represents LGBT clients must be familiar with discrimination and domestic law issues.
If you’re seeking a family law attorney for your LGBT relationship or child, your first step will be to have a consultation. The attorney will discuss your legal matter or case, the nuances of the law regarding it, and potential approaches going forward. Consultations are the way for LGBT community members to gauge whether the attorney will be a good fit for their circumstances. A family law lawyer must understand the nuances and complications inherent in domestic law for LGBT people.
Across the state, a growing number of enrichment programs have been designed for attorneys to learn more about how to represent the LGBT community. These programs include information about LGBT rights, marriages, custody agreements, and etiquette. Additionally, certain specialized non-profit organizations will take on attorneys who want to provide their services to LGBT community members.
Divorcing Same-Sex Couples and Child Custody
When child custody is an issue, same-sex divorces use the same standards as opposite-sex divorces. The court will make the custody determination based on the child’s interests. This determination will define which parties get physical custody, legal custody, and visitation rights.
Theoretically, courts are neutral when approaching a child’s custodial placement with same-sex parents. Instead of applying preconceived notions to the case, the court analyzes a set of domestic factors, and then applies them to the case circumstances.
A court might consider which parent has filled the role of primary caretaker for the involved child. Other potential deciding factors include, but are not limited to: physical health, mental health, and emotional health of all involved parties.
The Potential for Inherent Discrimination
Even though a great deal of progress has been made for LGBT community acceptance, there’s still a possibility of inherent discrimination. Any attorney working with the LGBT community should be aware of the potential for discrimination and hypervigilant in protecting their client against it.
Same-sex marriage was legalized in New York before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that nationalized it. However, same-sex marriage still receives frequent challenges both in New York and in the rest of the country. These challenges occur on both an individual and systemic basis. For an example of individual discrimination, some same-sex couples have faced the illegal denial of their marriage license by government workers citing “religious reasons.” On a systemic level, many state legislatures have attempted to enact discriminatory legislation in retaliation for the marriage equality decision.
If you’re facing discrimination regarding the officiating or verifying of your marriage, a family law lawyer should be your first resource. Sometimes, the problems don’t stop when the marriage license is issued. Couples still might face illegal discrimination including the refusal of businesses to serve them, the denial of hospital visitation rights, and the denial of the right to make life-saving medical decisions for a person’s spouse.
Even though the law is on the side of LGBT people, facing illegal discrimination is still a frightening and alienating experience. A good family law attorney will not only understand the law, but they’ll be experienced using it to defend their clients against unlawful discrimination.