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Transgender parents may face child custody obstacles

Some Pennsylvania residents are likely aware that former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner has undergone gender reassignment. His openness has raised awareness about transgender people, but as parents, people who have had gender reassignment may face some legal obstacles.

To some extent, those obstacles may depend upon the reaction of the other parent. A judge makes decisions about custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child, and if the judge feels that the child may face a lack of stability or may be targeted for social disapproval as a result of the parent's transition, that could affect how the judge approaches the case. A judge may also be affected by prevailing social norms.

Another issue is whether same-sex parents can legally parent a child. In particular, transgender parents may struggle for visitation rights if they are not the biological parent or the adoptive parent. However, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage in a decision that is expected at some point during the summer of 2015, this may lead to changes to those laws throughout the United States. In Jenner's case, this was not an issue because all of his children are in their late teens or older.

In Pennsylvania, same-sex marriage is legal, and this may smooth the way for some transgender people regarding child custody and visitation. Transgender individuals may wish to consult an attorney regarding these issues. For example, a couple may be splitting up, and one of them may be transitioning. The two parents may be in conflict regarding the transitioning parent's access to the child. An attorney may be able to assist with negotiation or litigation if is necessary go to court. Another issue may arise if a transgender parent marries a same-sex parent and wishes to legally adopt the biological child of that parent. An attorney may be helpful with this issue as well.

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