In our constantly changing legal landscape, LGBTQ law has made significant strides over the last few years. The state of Pennsylvania began to legally recognize same-sex marriage on May 20, 2014, thereby giving same-sex couples the same rights as any other couple. Still, there are many frequently asked questions regarding same-sex family law. Here, we discuss some of those.
First, it is often asked how child custody is determined for same-sex families. While courts still tend to rule in favor of the biological parents, the ultimate deciding factor is what is in the best interest of the child. Anyone who is not a biological parent would have better leverage in a custody dispute if a legal adoption has taken place. In the event of surrogacy, the courts would treat the custody the same as any other couple and, again, the ultimate deciding factor is what is in the best interest of the child – take a look at our 16 custody factors blog post for more information on how the courts define best interest.
Second, same-sex couples are often unsure if Pennsylvania divorce laws will apply in the same way, or differently than everyone else to them. The answer is that they are all recognized as the same. Pennsylvania is a “no-fault” state when it comes to filing for divorce, meaning that a spouse does not need a specified reason for filing. However, in order for the court to grant the divorce within 90 days, both spouses must give mutual consent. If one spouse does not agree, the court may still grant the divorce if the parties have lived apart for at least two years, and both agree that the marriage is broken. These rules apply to both heterosexual couples and same-sex couples.
Finally, same-sex couples want to know if a custody agreement can be changed. Again, these laws affect LGBTQ couples in the same way as heterosexual couples. There must be a substantial change in circumstance for a custody agreement to be modified. Some examples would be if one custodial party moved away, or if the child was in danger. Financial situations can also change drastically and cause a need for custody modification. At the end of the day, family law for same-sex couples is applied in the same way as all other cases. Seek out advice from an experienced attorney for any of these situations in order to obtain your best outcome.