Who gets custody of the kids in a same-sex Washington divorce?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Child Custody

Custody matters involving minor children are often the most emotional aspect of a divorce. Both adults in the family likely want as much time with the children as possible. In many families, the negotiation of custody matters is a straightforward affair, as both parents have an equal interest in the children.

However, same-sex couples sometimes find custody matters to be more difficult to navigate. Gay and lesbian couples cannot share biological children due to both spouses belonging to the same sex. Sometimes, one spouse contributes genetic material or carries a child. Other times, same-sex couples grow their families through adoption.

There are many families where technically only one adult has a biological or legal tie to their shared children. It is natural to worry that those unusual circumstances could affect custody matters. Who keeps the children in a same-sex divorce in Washington?

State law protects both parents

There are certain steps that those in same-sex marriages can take to help protect their parental rights preemptively. The decision to adopt a spouse’s child from a prior relationship is one such solution. Working cooperatively to adopt is another.

Those who did not plan for the possibility of a divorce can still seek custody. Washington law requires that the courts consider not just the legal and biological relationship with a child but also the practical history between the adults and the children in the family. The length of the relationship, the degree of support and the ability of the parents to meet the needs of the children are all factors that the courts can consider when deciding what to do with custody during a same-sex divorce.

The good news is that even those who do not technically have a legal or biological relationship with their children can still seek and potentially obtain shared custody. While it may be necessary to gather evidence supporting the claim that someone has played a parental role and can meet the needs of the children in the future, both parents can potentially request time with the children and a degree of authority when major decisions about the children’s upbringing are necessary.

Perhaps the biggest mistake that someone could make in a same-sex divorce might be giving up early on and failing to ask for shared custody rights. Learning about the law and reviewing one’s family circumstances with an attorney can help same-sex parents preparing for divorce better establish if they are in a good position to seek shared custody.