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Many advancements have been made in LGBT rights over the past few decades, culminating with the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Unfortunately, despite being technically legal, this doesn’t mean that same-sex couples and families are afforded all of the same benefits or rights of heterosexual couples.
In truth, New York LGBT family law is incredibly complex and can be almost impossible to navigate without the assistance of a qualified, experienced LGBT family law attorney. Whether you’re looking to get married, enter into a civil union, file for divorce or adopt a child, hiring a lawyer is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected and the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Long Island Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce Laws
Same-sex marriages officially became legal in New York in 2011 under the state’s Marriage Equality Act. As part of this act, same-sex couples are technically afforded the same benefits, rights and responsibilities of heterosexual couples. However, while the law allows gay and lesbian couples to enter into a marriage or civil union, same-sex divorce are generally much more difficult and complex when compared to straight divorces.
New York laws state that same-sex couples are entitled to the same equitable division of assets as heterosexual couples. However, it is still essential that you seek out an experienced LGBT divorce lawyer give yourself the best chance of getting a favorable settlement and ensuring that the assets and debts are truly divided fairly. This not only includes factors like determining transfer and ownership of property, but even things like deciding who gets custody of your pets.
As with heterosexual marriages, same-sex divorces and civil-union dissolutions are often settled through negotiation and mediation. In this case, you’ll obviously need the help of an LGBT divorce lawyer to help ensure you get a fair deal. Similarly, should it be necessary to seek litigation and have the divorce settled in court, your lawyer will hopefully make sure that your rights are protected and you don’t end up destitute or your spouse doesn’t end up with a disproportionate share of the assets.
Same-Sex Custody, Visitation and Child Support Issues
Despite statistics showing that only 5% of Americans identify as homosexual, same-sex marriages constitute approximately 9% of all New York marriages as many couples seek to finally gain access to the same benefits provided to married heterosexual couples. However, one area where same-sex couples may not be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples is where it concerns children. If your spouse is technically the adoptive parent, the court may rule that you have no legal rights to custody or even visitation. Similarly, if you are the adoptive or biological parent, your spouse may not be required to pay child support in the event of a divorce. These factors make it essential that you and your spouse discuss your options with a qualified LGBT family attorney in order to ensure that your parental rights are protected should you divorce.
Second-Parent Adoption, Sperm Donor Agreements, Surrogacy and Other LGBT Marriage Issues
Second-parent adoption is one option to ensure that both parents have the same legal rights and responsibilities to their children after a divorce. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways that an LGBT family law attorney can help you.
The complex and ever-changing world of LGBT family laws means that it is vital that same-sex couples seek professional legal help. An experienced LGBT family lawyer can assist you in creating sperm donor and insemination agreements, last wills and living wills, healthcare directives, power of attorney and any other legal documents necessary to ensure you and your spouse’s rights as a married couple are fully protected. Unfortunately, without taking these steps, there is no guarantee that you’ll receive your full marital rights in the event of your partner’s death. Therefore, it is imperative that you consider these possibilities long before they become relevant.
long island LGBT Prenuptial, Postnuptial and Cohabitation Agreements
One of the best ways to protect yourself and your partner in case of a divorce is to discuss all of your options ahead of time. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements allow you to determine how assets and debts will be shared in the event of a divorce and can also include stipulations regarding custody, alimony payments, child support and other potentially relevant issues. However, it is important to note that all such documents require that you and your spouse each obtain your own independent lawyer as otherwise the court will rule the contract invalid.
For same-sex couples in a long-term non-marital relationship, you may want to consider a cohabitation agreement. These function in much the same way as a pre- or postnuptial in that they specifically state each partner’s rights and responsibilities should the relationship be terminated.
Gay and lesbian family law is an incredibly complex issue. For this reason, no matter whether you are considering getting married, having children or getting a divorce, you’ll need the assistance of a qualified Long Island LBGT family law lawyer to help you through the process and ensure that your rights are fully protected.