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Child custody issues among transgender parents

When former Olympian athlete Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, announced that she was transitioning from a man to a woman later in life, it sparked a national conversation about gender identity. While the subject may still be controversial in some parts of Atlanta, public awareness of transgender individuals may be higher now than it has ever been, as is its public acceptance. Still, the law often lags behind the public when it comes to changing social norms. This can mean that transgendered individuals may face obstacles when they are involved in family law matters such as child custody disputes.

In many states, gender reassignment can interfere with child custody. While the legal rights of sexual minorities have been changing rapidly in recent years, they still have a long way to go before they reach full equality. Georgia still doesn't recognize same-sex marriage and a number of states don't legally recognize adoption by two parents of the same sex. What's more, many states have very little in the way of legal protections for parents who don't have a biological or adoptive relationship to the children they help raise.

Some courts may fear that one parent's gender reassignment could negatively affect the child. Courts base child custody disputes on a legal standard known as "the best interests of the child." This essentially means that the court must weigh the needs of the parents and other interested parties against its determination of the child's best interests. For a number of reasons, some courts may see the gender transition of one parent as potentially confusing for the child and decide that the child should go elsewhere.

Child custody disputes can be very emotional matters for parents who are just trying to do what's right for themselves at the same time they're doing what's right for their children. It's important for those going through a child custody dispute to have the help of legal professionals who have experience with these difficult matters and can offer them compassionate advice and forceful advocacy.

Source: Main Street, "Transgender Parents Face Uphill Battle For Child Custody and Visitation in Court," Juliette Fairley, May 20, 2015

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