Throughout the course of a marriage, people change, but few things can be as jarring as when a spouse comes out and declares their homosexuality.
“While the acceptance of gay and lesbian rights in Oregon has rightly been a cause for celebration, one of the by-products of this change is that more and more children in marriages where one parent comes out are in a custody dispute,” says Portland attorney Deanna Jensen, who’s firm frequently takes cases involving LGBT custody issues.
With the passage of a series of laws at the state and federal level, child custody issues should be treated just as they are in heterosexual divorce proceedings. However, despite the letter of the law, when one of the parties in a marriage dissolution comes out as gay, there’s an increased likelihood that that person may experience some form of bias.
“Although for several years now our Oregon courts have been very even-handed and often sympathetic when dealing with the LGBT community, it is not uncommon for a party and/or an attorney to present the case involving a parent who has come out with bias and derision. This makes the dissolution process very emotionally difficult, leads to more litigation, and is often more costly for the family,” adds Jensen.
If you are concerned that you are experiencing bias because you have come out as gay in a heterosexual marriage, it’s best to consult a Portland attorney who has experience in LGBT custody issues. You can get an attorney referral from the National Center for Lesbian Rights at www.nclrights.org or research possibilities on any number of other specialized data bases.
In May 2014, Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned resulting in the state recognizing no legal differences between a same-sex and opposite-sex marriage. That means same-sex couples will face the same standards and laws in divorce or child custody proceedings as an opposite-sex couple.
On the surface, to some people, that may mean there is no need to work with a Portland based attorney with experience in LGBT family law. But the value of retaining an LGBT family law attorney is still important when dealing with legal issues that cross state lines where same sex marriages are not officially recognized. Although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a same-sex marriage considered valid under a state’s law is also recognized by the Federal government, there are still complications and issues that exist on a state by state basis.
What is consistent, however, is that with the Supreme Court ruling in June of 2015, equal rights were affirmed for all citizens in the United States, including same-sex families, as guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment.
That means same-sex married couples now enjoy:
Tax Benefits – same-sex couples now benefit from state and federal tax rules that apply during marriage, including filing jointly and avoiding estate taxes on state and federal returns.
FMLA Benefits – Under the Family Medical Leave Act, same-sex couples taking a leave of absence from employment to care for a spouse now enjoy this benefit. Maternity and paternity provisions also apply to these couples as well.
Employee Benefits – Same-sex couples can now be included on the medical, dental and other types of health plans of their spouse.
Property Rights – Same-sex couples now enjoy the same provisions as heterosexual couples when it comes to property benefits, division of federal and state retirement plans, and marital estate planning.