LGBT Family Law: Every Family Deserves a Happy Beginning
Today’s families are as different as the many individuals that make up those families. While there is still room for improvement, New Jersey and Pennsylvania law protects many of the rights of lesbian, gay and transgender couples. In October 2013, a New Jersey Supreme Court ruling made marriage between same-sex couples legal. This law also allowed same-sex couples married in other states to divorce in New Jersey.
New Jersey also prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status during adoption proceedings and allows co-parents to adopt a partner’s biological or adopted child.
Unfortunately, LGBT families still face many struggles. Long term partners may be unable to assign employer death benefits to each other. Non-biological co-parents may lose the right to seek custody or visitation after a death or the end of a relationship. A marriage that is legal in one state may not be recognized in another.
Melinda M. Previtera, Attorney at Law assists New Jersey same-sex couples and non-traditional families with all aspects of family law including:
- Marriage, prenuptial agreements and marriage registration
- Divorce, child support and custody arrangements
- Domestic partnerships, civil unions and dissolution of domestic partnerships
- Adoption and co-parent adoption
- Surrogacy agreements
- Estate planning
Because legal rights vary from state to state, family law for same sex couples is rarely simple. Melinda M. Previtera stays up-to-date with the latest changes to laws involving LGBT rights, same sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption in New Jersey and other states. Her goal is to make sure your best interests are protected whether you are adopting a child, ending a relationship, or planning for the future.
Every family should have the same rights and privileges. Contact Melinda M. Previtera, Attorney at Law to learn how to protect your interests and your family now and in the future.
Moorestown Attorney Melinda M. Previtera Answers Your Questions
Answers to Your Questions About LGBT Adoption in New Jersey
New Jersey was the first state in the U.S to protect the rights of same-sex couples who want to adopt. In New Jersey, couples who are seeking to adopt may not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status. Therefore, adoption in New Jersey is based solely on what is in the best interest of the child being adopted.
In New Jersey, you can adopt your partner’s child through a legal process called co-parent (or second-parent) adoption. A co-parent is an adoption in which one parent is already the legal guardian of the child. The second parent adopts the biological or adopted child of his or her same-sex partner and receives equal parenting rights. Co-parent adoption is an option for both married and unmarried couples.
If you and your partner are married or in a civil union, you will both be considered the legal parents of the child. If you and your spouse are not married, you may choose to protect your rights to legally parent the child through a New Jersey co-parent adoption.
Answers to Your Questions About Same-Sex Marriage in New Jersey
No, a civil union is not considered a marriage in New Jersey. In 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that committed same-sex couples in civil unions must be afforded the same rights as married heterosexual couples in certain areas, including taxation and inheritance. However, a civil union is not a marriage and is not recognized under federal law. Partners in a civil union are not assured all the state-granted legal benefits of marriage, or many of the federal benefits. If you and your partner would like all the benefits and protections of marriage in New Jersey, you must be legally married.
Yes, New Jersey recognizes out-of-state marriages as long as they are consistent with the laws and public policy of New Jersey. A couple who is married out of state may renew their marriage commitment in New Jersey by applying for a remarriage license.
Although same-sex marriage is recognized in New Jersey and many other states, there are states that do not recognize or ban same-sex marriages. If you are married in New Jersey, your marriage will continue to be recognized by the U.S. government regardless of where you live. However, you may not be able to enjoy health plan benefits, state tax benefits, protection from discrimination, or the other legal rights that married spouses enjoy if you move out to a state that does not recognize same sex marriage. If your relationship breaks up, you may not be allowed to file for divorce. Therefore, it is important that you speak to an attorney about the steps you can take to protect your relationship before moving out of state.
No. Marriage does not replace a domestic partnership. The domestic partnership will remain intact and will remain on file with the Office of Vital Statistics and Registry unless it is dissolved by the courts.
No, New Jersey law does not require you to dissolve your civil union before marrying your current civil union partner. However, you must have your civil union dissolved if you wish to marry someone other than your current civil union partner. If you and your spouse divorce, you will also need to dissolve your civil union.
Yes. The New Jersey Civil Union Act remains in effect.
Answers to Your Questions About Same-Sex Divorce, child Support and Child Custody in New Jersey
Yes. In New Jersey, a marriage between civil union partners does not terminate the civil union. Therefore, you and your spouse will need a divorce to end your marriage and a dissolution to end your civil union.
If you and your spouse are both legal parents of the child, your child-related disputes will be handled as they are for a straight couple. A New Jersey family court judge will consider a number of factors and determine the custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.
You are both considered legal parents of the child if any of the following apply:
- The child was born to you or your spouse during a marriage, a civil union or a registered domestic partnership.
- You and your spouse jointly adopted the child.
- The non-biological parent adopted the child through a second-parent or stepparent adoption.
- The spouse who is not the parent of the child acted as a parent and established a parent-child relationship.
If your spouse is the child’s only legal parent, you may have limited rights and may not be eligible for custody or visitation. However, laws change rapidly. I recommend that you speak to an attorney about your situation.