Unfortunately, for both heterosexual and same-sex couples, the bliss of marriage comes with the potential pain of divorce. Because many laws affecting divorce differ from state to state, if you are seeking an LGBT divorce in Florida, it is essential to find a well-respected local divorce law team knowledgeable about all the nuances of same-sex marriage and divorce in our state, including child custody.
If you live in the vicinity of Orlando, there is no more well-informed family law practice than Orlando Family Team. Once you contact us, you will feel the relief that comes from dealing with divorce attorneys who are both true professionals and compassionate human beings.
If you are in a same-sex marriage and contemplating divorce, the same stresses apply to you and your soon-to-be-ex as those that apply to your heterosexual counterparts. In many cases, however, if you have children, child custody arrangements as same-sex parents may present even greater complications in a divorce.
Same-Sex Divorce and Child Custody in Orlando
In most ways, same-sex divorce laws in Florida mirror heterosexual divorce laws. For example, in order for a married couple to divorce in the state, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least 6 months before filing for divorce.
The grounds for divorce in Florida are also identical no matter what your sexual orientation: either “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” or mental incapacity of one of the spouses. The former is used as grounds for divorce in the vast majority of cases; the latter can only be used 3 years after mental incapacity of one of the spouses has been established.
Types of Same-Sex Divorce in Florida
Florida divorces can be contested or uncontested, negotiated or litigated. “Uncontested” divorces are those in which the two parties have been able to reach an agreement on central issues, such as:
- Division of property
- Alimony (spousal support)
- Child custody
- Child support
If the couple is unable to agree on a parenting plan, the court will intervene, making decisions believed to be in the best interests of the children. At Orlando Family Team, we work with you in the belief that reaching a negotiated divorce agreement rather than engaging in a courtroom battle is best for all involved. This is especially true for any children of the marriage, barring exceptional circumstances.
Nonetheless, we have experience with a broad range of couples and are fully aware that some divorces cannot be accomplished without a trial. If we do have to go to court, you can rely on our well-developed litigation techniques to bring you a just outcome.
Custody Arrangements Can Be Distressing, Even More So for Same-Sex Parents
If a same-sex couple has a child once they are married, either the biological child of one spouse or a child they both adopt, they are both legal parents.
However, if the biological parent marries after the child is born, unless the partner adopts the child, that partner is not considered a legal parent. This is why Orlando Family Team recommends that non-biological parents legally adopt the child so that both spouses are equal parents in the eyes of the law.
This is particularly important in Florida, where the courts have denied visitation to anyone who is not the child’s legal parent. This means that, unless the biological parent agrees to share custody or visitation rights, the partner who hasn’t legally adopted the child, no matter how devoted a parent, will have no parental rights to the child she or he has raised if the couple divorces.
If there is some reason you cannot adopt the child you love, it is wise to have our legal team draw up a shared custody contract early on in the marriage, just in case the marriage ever fails — like a prenup, but with much higher stakes.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements for Same-Sex Couples in Orlando
Unlike many states that divide child custody into legal and physical custody, Florida has instead created two categories: parental responsibilities and time-sharing. As with all divorcing couples, there are two basic kinds of child custody arrangements:
- Shared custody in which the child lives approximately half the time with each parent,
splitting the week, in which case the parents have to live very close to one another, or splitting the year, which can be very difficult for the child in terms of schooling and making friends
- Sole custody in which the child lives with one parent, but the parents agree on a visitation schedule that gives the noncustodial parent time to share parenting — on particular weeknights, certain weekends, designated holidays, and vacations
There are many situations in which shared (joint) custody is inconvenient or impossible to arrange. In these situations, parents may argue about where the child should live. Unless they can come to a workable agreement, the court will decide custody based on the following criteria:
- Length of time the child has lived with each parent in a stable environment
- Strength of the emotional bond between each parent and the child
- Resources and income that affect each parent’s ability to provide
- Willingness of each parent to facilitate a close relationship
between the child and the other parent
- Mental and physical health of each parent
- Moral fitness of each parent
- Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse
- Alcohol or drug abuse by either parent
- Wishes of a child old enough to express a preference
LGBT Parents Must Keep One Another Informed About Their Child
Both parents are assumed to share parental responsibility and decision-making (formerly referred to as “legal custody”) by making joint decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing. In accordance with this shared parental responsibility comes the stipulation that each parent must inform the other about any
Issues affecting the child’s well-being, including:
- Educational matters
- Major events in the child’s life
In order to make this ongoing communication possible, the parents must agree on how and when they will make contact on a regular basis. Once again, if the parents cannot agree on a viable parenting plan, the court will intervene.
If You Are Navigating a Same-Sex Divorce and Child Custody, Contact Orlando Family Team Today
We know that divorce is never easy and that LGBT divorces may have some intrinsic problems. More to the point, we know that your divorce and child custody case is unique and will give it the personal care and attention it deserves as you redefine your family. Contact our skilled Orlando child custody attorney for a consultation.