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Same-sex parents: Do you have parental rights?

There are a lot of different ways that same-sex couples can have children. If they are two women, they can adopt, have a child through a sperm donor or have a fertilized egg from another mother placed in the womb. There are other options, and many available for two males as well. The more complicated problems, however, arise when same-sex parents decide to divorce.

Depending on the way the child came into the couple's lives, one parent may have a stronger claim to custody than the other. That's because one parent might be viewed as a stepparent. In cases of adoption, it might be that only one parent's name was listed as the adoptive parent in the paperwork. In cases of artificial insemination, the biological parent may be the only parent listed on the child's birth certificate. In these situations, the other parent could face serious challenges if he or she wants to have custody and/or visitation rights following a divorce.

These problems exist because child custody laws have not caught up with marriage laws. Although same-sex couples now have the legal right to marry throughout the United States, each state may have a different way of deciding a child custody disagreement following the split due to complicated scenarios such as those described above.

If you are in a same-sex marriage, and you want to have a child with your spouse -- or if you are already raising a child with your spouse -- you may want to consult with an attorney to ensure that your same-sex parental rights are protected. Especially for those who are in same-sex marriages, but are not the legally adoptive parent or the legal parent on the birth certificate of the child, it may be important to take additional steps to safeguard your parental rights.

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