Social scientists have generally shown that the mere fact that a parent is gay doesn’t have a significant affect a child’s overall well-being. The conclusion typically drawn is that sexual orientation shouldn’t be seen as something that runs counter to the best interests of a child.
That standard of best interest is the one that courts are expected to apply when determining issues related to child custody and visitation. That’s true in Minnesota as well as the rest of the country. That being the case, one would think that a gay parent’s orientation shouldn’t matter. In actual practice, though, as a new university study indicates, that isn’t always the way things work out.
The authors say that despite the existing research, when judges are confronted with a divorcing couple in which one of the exes is gay, the homosexual orientation may well be weighed. And it’s often to the detriment of the gay parent’s custody or visitation rights.
The concern expressed by the researchers is that the divide between science and law creates a gap that can wind up eroding fruitful parent-child relationships and hurting children.
In the case of same-sex couples with children, one partner may not be seen as a legal parent by the state and thus lose custody. Once again, the view is that the child may suffer.
What the researchers did was study current state laws regarding gay parents and custody and the research that has been done on gay parenting. What they determined is that psychologists called on to perform evaluations in child custody situations would do well to become more familiar with the law and the research when called on by the courts to do child custody evaluations.
At the same time, they say judges should become more familiar with the science and let it inform their decisions. They say lawmakers might also want to rely on the research to reshape the law so that it better supports gay parents in maintaining bonds with their children.
Regardless of what action might come as a result of the study, it’s wisest to seek legal counsel to ensure that your rights are fought for.
Source: The Guardian, “For gay and lesbian parents, equality is a myth when it comes to custody cases,” Steven W. Thrasher, April 21, 2014