Study Finds Courts Show Bias against LGBT Parents in Custody Battles
A new review, Lesbian and Gay Parents and Determination of Child Custody: The Changing Legal Landscape and Implications for Policy and Practice, conducted by researchers from Drexel University reveals that LGBT parents still encounter bias from the family court system when it comes to child custody disputes. The review appears in the premiere issue of Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, and was published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
Despite many states, like Illinois, passing laws allowing same-sex marriages, as well as last year’s Supreme Court decision which ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, parents in the LGBT community are still being denied the same legal rights as heterosexual parents.
The research team studied existing data on gay and lesbian parenting, and the majority of which concluded that children who are brought up by gay or lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted as children who are brought up by heterosexual parent.
Yet many family courts ignore this research and often custody is denied to the gay or lesbian parent. Scenarios cited in the review where this bias often occurs includes situations where a parent may come out as gay during the final stages of a heterosexual marriage or relationship, and when a same-sex couple breaks up but the courts only recognize one of the partners as the legal parent.
Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, a psychology professor at Drexel and one of the researchers said in a statement, “There’s been a sea-change within the past five to 10 years – several states are currently going through the process of legalizing same-sex marriage – and a by-product of that change is that there are more people in same-sex relationships that have been legitimized by society."
Heilbrun also noted that with this change comes an increasing number of custody disputes involving children who have a parent in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the issue has become more relevant and needs addressed.
If you are involved in a child custody dispute, please contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney to make sure your rights and your children’s rights are protected during this process.