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Fighting for child custody as a transgender person

Despite the advances for gay people in recent years, these more open attitudes and legal rights haven't always transmitted to transgender people. Parents who transition to another gender can wind up having to fight for their child custody and visitation rights if the relationship with the co-parent ends. This is particularly true for parents who aren't the biological or legal parent of a child.

Fortunately, New York has more progressive laws for gay people wishing to adopt a child, whether alone, as a couple or when he or she is the child of a partner or spouse, than many other states. However, when a parent undergoes a gender change, the courts may not view that parent's case sympathetically.

Since the legal standard in virtually all child custody and visitation cases is what's in the best interests of the child, a legal or biological parent may argue, and a judge may agree, that the other parent's transition has or will cause problems for the kids.

When young children are involved, the non-transgender parent may contend that the transition is confusing and frightening for them. With older kids, they may cite problems they'll encounter from their peers.

Often, the non-transgender parent's own feelings about the transition impact whether they fight against custody and visitation. In the case of probably the most famous transgender person, Bruce Jenner, who started publicly identifying as a woman at 65, his wife of more than two decades reportedly had a difficult time adjusting to it. In too many child custody battles, parents who restrict custody often do so at least in part out of feelings of betrayal. When a partner changes gender identity, that betrayal can feel tremendous.

For anyone fighting for custody or visitation of a child, experienced legal guidance is important to protect your rights. However, when additional factors, such as being transgender, are involved, this guidance is essential.

Source: MainStreet, "Transgender Parents Face Uphill Battle For Child Custody and Visitation in Court," Juliette Fairley, accessed Dec. 23, 2016

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