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A couple's sexual orientation affects child custody

In traditional married couples, same-sex couples and unmarried couples, child custody is a huge issue and often becomes a point of contention when couples decide to end their relationship. The children are impacted the most by the split because their entire family structure changes and requires adjustment. Especially if the children are at an age where they understand the situation and what it means for them, it can be particularly traumatic. When dealing with child custody cases, all adult parties involved should make a concerted effort to protect the children.

Most courts, including Michigan courts, use the best interest of the child standard to determine where a child should be placed. Placement of children in child custody cases turns on where the child will be best provided for financially, physically and emotionally, as well as the parents' relationship to the child. In cases where the child is old enough and mature enough to express his or her preferences regarding placement, the court may take this into account in making any final determinations, at least to some degree. Sometimes, child custody issues are handled amicably by the interested parties. However, in many case, court involvement is necessary.

In situations involving same-sex couples, custody issues are a little more complex to determine. Because many states do not recognize marriage for same-sex couples, when same-sex couples have children, the child custody dispute takes on a whole new dynamic.

In Florida, the Florida Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case where a same-sex lesbian couple is fighting over custody of their child. The biological mother donated an egg. The egg was fertilized and then placed in the partner, who then carried the baby to term. At issues is the definition of motherhood and how it impacts custody in this decision.

A decision in this case could alter the way child custody decisions are handled. Depending on the sexual orientation of the couple, child custody issues may force the courts to look at other factors.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Florida justices hearing lesbian custody dispute", The Associated Press, Oct. 2, 2012

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