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Separate rulings result in conflict over same-sex parental rights

The Supreme Court ruling in 2015 regarding marriage equality may have been understood by some families to provide protection for more than just marital relationships. There could be some same-sex couples who have assumed that this ruling also confers parental rights when a marriage ends in divorce. There may be many New York families who are attempting to discern how custody could be affected in a same-sex dissolution that includes children.

In one state, two separate rulings by family and appellate courts in different districts have arrived at vastly different conclusions in these matters. In one case, a court ruled that the women involved in the marriage were entitled to parental rights when their relationship legally ended. That ruling was upheld in an appeals court decision, which came after the 2015 Supreme Court ruling. A more recent case was decided in a manner that contradicted the first ruling.

The appeals courts judges in the more recent case ruled that Arizona paternity laws could not be applied in a gender-neutral manner. Because the second parent -- who was listed as the father on the child's birth registration -- did not take the extra step of legally adopting the child, she was not entitled to custody but was granted temporary supervised visitation rights. The second case was reversed once when the non-biological parent appealed for parental rights based on the first case, but that decision was later overturned. Both cases are headed to the Arizona Supreme Court for final interpretation of the state's laws in regard to children conceived to same-sex partners through artificial insemination.

It is unclear how that state's Supreme Court will settle the question of parental rights of same-sex couples. This may be a matter that will eventually need to be addressed through a revision of each state's paternity laws or by the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, New York families who are struggling to resolve custody issues or related matters may seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: azcentral.com, "Supreme Court rules for same-sex parents' birth certificate rights in Arizona case", Richard Wolfe, Accessed on Sept. 11, 2017

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