Same-sex custody battle taking a toll on Pennsylvania woman

As Pennsylvania residents are well aware, a federal judge this week struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for many same-sex couples in our state who have been patiently waiting to get married. Of course, not everyone will have waited for this decision to make their life plans; some people went to other states to get married, while others have been living together as a family for many years.

For those folks, the recent ruling might be bittersweet. Many couples have gotten together, had children, and then split up. Due to differing laws in different states at the time of their various life events, issues such as child custody may have been handled differently than if they had been able to get married before starting their families.

One Pennsylvania woman has been experiencing these difficulties for some time. She and her partner met in Pennsylvania and had a marriage ceremony there in 2007, knowing that it had no legal effect. They later moved to California, were recognized as domestic partners, and had a child via artificial insemination.

After moving back to Pennsylvania, the couple had a second child. Last year, the couple split up; the woman who gave birth to the children stayed with them in the family home, while the other partner sought custody. However, because she wasn’t listed on the birth certificate of the second child, due to Pennsylvania law, courts have so far refused to grant her any custody rights.

These issues may become moot in the future, now that same-sex couples can be married here. But there are still many couples who will continue to have to deal with a patchwork of laws as a result of their existing situations.

Source: York Dispatch, “Former Yorker embroiled in same-sex custody battle,” Christina Kauffman, May 7, 2014

Pennsylvania men to marry in New Jersey Pride parade

As same-sex marriage becomes more and more common around the country, the issues that such couples face are becoming less and less remarkable. Not every state has legalized same-sex marriage, of course, but same-sex couples are everywhere. Issues such as child custody, child support and adoption are commonplace for couples who, in some cases, have been together for a long time.

Couples often go to states that do permit and recognize same-sex marriage in order to get married and then return to their home states. These days, Pennsylvania is almost unique among states in the Northeast in that it doesn’t yet allow same-sex marriage. Our neighbors in New York and New Jersey do, however, making them common destinations for Pennsylvania couples.

Next month, a Pennsylvania couple marching in a gay pride parade that will begin in New Jersey and end across the river in Pennsylvania are getting married. They’ll be wed by the mayor of Lambertville, New Jersey, when the parade is on the New Jersey side; they’ll then march home to Pennsylvania as a married couple.

It’s not inconceivable that the law in Pennsylvania will change in the near future; after all, many states now have laws authorizing same-sex marriages. Until then, however, couples in Pennsylvania who aren’t married can still make sure that the legal needs of their families are addressed. Having the proper documentation in place can make it much easier for same-sex parents to be the legal parents of their children and make sure their rights are preserved in the event of one parent’s death.

Source: Hunterdon County Democrat, “Two men to marry in Lambertville ‘Pride’ parade, then return to Pennsylvania home,” Renée Kiriluk-Hill, April 8, 2014

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