Bethlehem Same-Sex Attorney

Custody Disupute Lawyers Serving The Lehigh Valley

At Littner, Deschler & Littner, we can help non-traditional families navigate the complexities of a legal system that often fails to address their needs and interests. In the past, gay or lesbian parents involved in custody disputes with a heterosexual parent bore a special burden of showing that their same-sex relationship did not adversely affect the well-being of the child whose custody was at issue. In 2010, the Superior Court finally overruled those cases which created a presumption in favor of awarding custody to the heterosexual parent. Now, both parents stand on an equal footing in any custody dispute, and the court's decision, like in all custody cases, is governed by what is in the best interests of the child. The only way that a court may consider a party's sexuality or sexual conduct in making a custody award is when such sexuality or sexual conduct can be demonstrated to have adversely affected the child. Thus, a court may consider evidence of parent who leaves his child locked in a car while engaging in a romantic tryst. However, the simple fact that a parent is gay or lesbian, without more, will not be deemed to adversely affect the child's best interests.

Even where a parent is not biologically related to his or her child, he or she may still have custodial rights. An individual may seek any kind or physical or legal custody of a child if the individual stands "in loco parentis" to the child. The Latin phrase "in loco parentis" refers to a person who puts oneself in the situation of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incident to the parental relationship without going through the formality of a legal adoption. In loco parentis standing will be found where the child has established strong psychological bonds with a person who, although not a biological parent, has lived with the child and provided care, nurture, and affection, assuming in the child's eye a stature like that of a parent.

In cases where a child is biologically related to one of his/her gay or lesbian parents, the law presumes that the biologically-related parent should be awarded custody. However, that presumption can be rebutted if the non-biological parent can show, by clear and convincing evidence, that it is in the best interests of the child to award custody to the non-biological parent.

The law regarding child custody in the context of same-sex relationships is a relatively new and development subject area. If your custodial rights to your child are in jeopardy, contact a family lawyer at Littner, Deschler & Littner to ensure that your rights and the rights of your child are protected.