Do You Need an LGBTQ Divorce Lawyer?

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Every marriage is utterly unique to the two people involved, and whether they’re a heterosexual or same-sex couple has no bearing on this fact. This said, however, if you’re a same-sex couple who is facing divorce, there are certain considerations that are more likely to apply to your case.

And because protecting your parental and financial rights is key, you shouldn’t wait to consult with an experienced Round Rock LGBTQ divorce lawyer.

If You’re Facing a Divorce, Legal Counsel Is Always Advised

Anyone who is facing a divorce is advised to retain skilled legal counsel from the outset. The stakes are simply too high not to have trusted legal guidance. Even if you and your divorcing spouse are in complete agreement regarding every detail, a dedicated divorce attorney will help to ensure that the decisions you make are well-considered in the context of your legal rights.

If the terms you’ve negotiated with your divorcing spouse are in keeping with these rights, you can proceed with the confidence that comes from knowing you’re well protected. If not, however, your lawyer will afford you the focus and legal insight you need to negotiate more favorable terms.

A very important point to keep in mind here is that just because your divorce begins on an amicable note does not mean that it will end the same way. When it comes to divorce, it’s important to expect the unexpected and to know that problems can arise seemingly out of nowhere.

The bottom line is that it’s difficult to separate one’s emotions from the legal divorce process, and these emotions can wreak havoc on the agreements you’ve made and can turn what you thought would be an easy divorce into something much more contentious.

Having a seasoned divorce lawyer on your side from the start helps to ensure that your divorce will proceed as smoothly as possible.

The Basic Terms of Your LGBTQ Divorce

Same-sex marriages weren’t legalized in Texas until 2015, but from this point on, there haven’t been any fundamental differences between same-sex divorces and any others. Every divorce is as unique as the marriage itself, but every divorcing couple must resolve the same divorce terms – as they apply to their circumstances. These include:

  • The division of marital property

  • Child custody arrangements

  • Child support

  • Alimony

If you are an LGBTQ couple, only your child custody arrangements are likely to be affected by this fact, which – in turn – can affect child support in your case. The fact that you are an LGBTQ couple, however, will have no bearing on how your marital property is distributed between the two of you upon divorce or on your alimony terms – if applicable.

Child Custody in Texas

Texas considers child custody in terms of both legal and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody determines how parents will make primary parenting decisions on behalf of their children post-divorce. The kinds of decisions addressed are more serious than the everyday determinations and, instead, focus on primary matters like the following:

  • The health care and medical attention your children receive

  • The school or daycare your children attend

  • Where your children make their primary home

  • The extracurricular activities and travel your children participate in

  • The religious upbringing your children receive

Parents can make these decisions together or can divide them according to category. Other options include joint legal custody that affords one parent the right to break a tie when a mutually acceptable decision can’t be reached, or one parent taking on sole legal custody and making all of these primary decisions on their own.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to parenting time, and it determines the schedule by which children divide their time between both parents. Texas courts allot parenting time in accordance with the children’s best interests, and their starting position is that these best interests are best served when children are allowed to spend a significant amount of time with each parent.

While one parent may take on the primary custodial role, the other parent can expect a significant amount of parenting time. The best interest factors Texas courts turn to when making child custody determinations include the following:

  • The children’s preferences – for those who are mature enough to weigh in

  • How involved each parent has been in raising the children to date

  • How close each parent’s relationship is with each child

  • How well the children’s current living situation is working for them, including in relation to their home, school, and community

  • Each parent’s level of commitment to effective co-parenting and to supporting the other’s ongoing relationship with the children

  • The children’s needs and each parent’s commitment and ability to effectively address these needs

  • Each child’s age and overall mental and physical health

  • Each parent’s overall mental and physical health

If both spouses aren’t recognized as the children’s legal parents, it can seriously complicate the matter of child custody in an LGBTQ divorce.

Your Child Custody Arrangements

Unless you and your spouse adopted a child together, had a child through surrogacy together, or have already addressed the issue through adoption, the matter of child custody can lead to serious issues. If only one of you is the child’s biological or legal parent, the other may have no legal right to child custody, which can prove devastating for both parent and child.

If You Are a Stepparent

When the child in question is the biological child of one spouse from a prior relationship, the other spouse becomes the stepparent. Only if the child’s second biological or legal parent is out of the picture or is willing to give up their parental rights does stepparent adoption become a possibility.

While stepparents often play important roles in their stepchildren’s lives, they have few legal rights, and this is true for heterosexual and LGBTQ marriages and divorces. While stepparents have little standing when it comes to child custody, there are instances when stepparents fight for and obtain visitation. Discuss your case with a savvy LGBTQ divorce attorney today.

Adoption

If you marry someone who adopted a child with someone else, you are a stepparent, and the same challenges regarding your rights to visitation post-divorce apply.

If, however, your spouse adopted the child on their own, you could become the child’s second legal parent through the adoption process. Once you’ve adopted the child, you’ll have all the same legal rights as your spouse regarding child custody in the event of divorce.

Finally, if you and your spouse adopt a child together, each of your parental rights are secured, and any child custody case will proceed in exactly the same way it would for a heterosexual couple who either had a child together or adopted a child together.

One important note to make here is that in Texas – when a married couple adopts – they adopt together. One spouse can’t take it upon themself to adopt a child without including the other in the process.

Proceed with Caution

Child custody cases are more challenging when it comes to LGBTQ divorces, and the results can be unpredictable. The courts’ legal stance and rulings are evolving, which can make it very difficult to know how the matter will be resolved in your case.

If you are facing an LGBTQ divorce that involves a child, having focused legal representation from the start is always advised.

Negotiating Child Custody Terms between Yourselves

When you’re facing a concern as important as child custody, relinquishing your decision-making authority to the court generally isn’t anyone’s first choice. You and your divorcing spouse share the desire to do what’s best for your children, and this fact can help bolster child custody negotiations.

It is also true that when one parent is a biological parent of the children, they may feel as if they have a stronger claim to enhanced parenting time – although the law may not see it this way.

If you can set your differences aside to negotiate fair child custody terms between yourselves, it’s generally the best way to go. And your savvy LGBTQ divorce attorney will help to ensure that your rights are well protected throughout the negotiation process.

Child Support

Child support is generally a fairly cut-and-dried legal matter. It’s designed to balance the financial support each parent provides, and it’s calculated according to an exacting equation that takes a range of primary variables into consideration.

The parent who earns more, however, generally has the child support responsibility, and this is true even when parenting time is 50/50.

In an LGBTQ divorce, the matter of child support can be more complicated. When one spouse isn’t a legal parent of the children involved, it not only affects their rights to visitation but can also void any responsibility they have to pay child support – depending upon the circumstances.

The Division of Marital Property

The division of marital property proceeds in exactly the same manner for traditional and LGTBQ divorces, and it’s one of the divorce terms that is most likely to become hotly contested. This division will directly affect your financial future, which makes it of critical importance, and understanding the ins and outs can help you better protect your financial rights.

Those assets that you, your spouse, or you and your spouse purchased or acquired during your marriage are considered marital assets. There are very few exceptions to this rule, and they include the following:

  • Any inheritances or gifts either spouse receives in their name alone

  • The pain and suffering portion of either spouse’s personal injury claim

In the event of divorce, marital property must be divided fairly in relation to relevant factors like the following:

  • The length of the marriage

  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including in relation to caring for the children and the family home

  • Either spouse’s wrongdoing – even in a no-fault divorce

  • Each spouse’s separate assets

  • Each spouse’s earning power

  • Whether either spouse hid or otherwise dissipated funds in the leadup to divorce

Separate property refers to those assets either of you owned prior to marriage and kept separate throughout. In the State of Texas, all property is presumed to be marital, which means that the spouse who claims the separate asset must prove its separate nature.

Any increase in the value of a separate property over the course of the marriage is likely to be considered marital, and any intermingling of separate and marital finances can erode the division between them.

Alimony

Alimony is called spousal maintenance in Texas, and it’s only ordered when the divorce leaves one spouse without the means to cover their own means while the other is financially ability to assist. The longer the marriage, the more likely alimony is to be awarded and the standard of living achieved during the marriage can affect how the recipient’s needs are calculated.

Generally, alimony is intended to provide the recipient with the financial assistance they need to gain greater financial independence through further education or job training. Alimony in Texas is usually set for a specific duration and is only ongoing if the recipient is seriously disabled or provides full-time care for a child of the marriage who is seriously disabled.

Discuss Your Case with an Experienced Round Rock LGBTQ Divorce Attorney Today

The formidable LGBTQ divorce lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Round Rock, Texas – recognize the additional challenges our clients face and will leave no stone unturned in our focused efforts to protect your parental and financial rights.

Your case is important, so please don’t wait to contact or call us at 254-781-4222 and schedule your free consultation today.

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