As we've discussed here before, people in same-sex relationships still face legal issues when it comes to child custody and visitation after a divorce or break-up if a child is not legally or biologically their own. For transgender parents, the problems can be even more serious.
Increasingly, people are finding the courage and support to transition -- sometimes later in life after they've married and had children. Most famously, Olympian Bruce Jenner began opening identifying as a woman at 65. As one civil rights advocate notes, "It's never too late to tell your mom, your wife, your kids and your friends about your true sexuality."
The Impact of the Transition on Children
However, when that person's co-parent believes that the other parent's transition (whether surgical or not) is detrimental to a child, a judge may well agree. A professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia's law school notes that "a gender change could adversely impact a child directly by causing great confusion or triggering adverse social reactions directed at the child, and it could also indirectly affect a child if going through the change is very stressful for the parent."
The professor notes that long-held attitudes towards transgender people still permeate our society. "Historically society has regarded such persons as mentally-ill. A co-parent might fear this is harmful to the child and a judge might agree." If a non-legal parent's gender transition leaves a child with same-sex parents, that parent may face an even steeper uphill battle in court.
Since judges are tasked with considering what's in the best interests of the children in all custody and visitation issues, the age of the kids will play a significant role in any court decisions. Young children may be more confused than older ones. However, older kids may find the transition harder to accept and be more concerned with how their friends will react.
Protect Your Rights
For people, with children who aren't their biological offspring or whom they haven't legally adopted, who transition to another gender, it's essential to do everything possible to work to ensure their continued access to those children.
Even if they are still married to or living with their partner, a change in that situation could put them in danger of losing custody. Family law attorneys experienced with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender legal issues can provide important guidance and work to protect their rights.
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