CHOOSING A LAWYER TO PROTECT LEGAL RIGHTS AS LESBIAN AND GAY COUPLES

Until the legal system catches up with the changes in the political atmosphere or vice versa, I guess depending on the way you want to look at it, Gays and Lesbians, must protect themselves from hatred and bigotry by trying to use the legal system. 

Often, as Lesbian and Gay couples, we are left without any protection when it comes to hospital rights, marital rights and the rights to protect our children that are a product of our relationships.  For example, my partner and I have been in a committed relationship for 15 years and we have decided to have a child with the help of a fertility clinic here in Jacksonville.  Do you know, as the other parent I have absolutely no rights to a child we decided to have together?  Of course, my wife, who is carrying our child, has all legal rights protecting her as a mother, but because she is gay, that could be challenged as well. 

Throughout our relationship we have protected our property by doing the following:  (1) cars purchased are bought in both our names, (2) house was purchased in my name, however, we "took the title" in both our names so that no one can come along and contest if this is her property as well ,(3) bank accounts, money markets and IRA’s are in both our names, (401K are separate because they are with the companies we work for, but we make sure that the beneficiary of those accounts are one another) and finally (4) we have drawn up legal paperwork making sure that medical wishes of both of us are taken into consideration in case of a hospital stay.  And with the new federal law prohibiting hospitals from discriminating against gay and lesbian couples, there is a little protection there, but we went a little further and put our wishes in a legal document.  But the one thing that is the most important to us is our child that is due in February.  What would happen to our child, say if, my partner were to pass away?  Could the state try to take my child away?  Could her family try to take m y child away?  Would I be protected from either of these groups?

The answer to the last question is “NO”.  So we decided to take it upon ourselves to get legal counsel and draw up paperwork to make sure those protections were in place for our family.

So where do you start?  Well, we contacted an organization like Lambda Legal, http://www.lambdalegal.org.  A gay rights organization, that specifically deals with legal issues that gays and lesbians face every day.  They directed us to several attorneys that are "gay friendly" and want to work on our type of case.

We ended up going with a local firm here in Jacksonville, http://www.jacksonvillelawyer.pro/lawyer-attorney-1662373.html, a firm that focuses on gay and lesbian adoptions.  According to their website, in September 2010, the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeal found that the Florida Statute banning a gay or lesbian individual from adopting a child in Florida is unconstitutional.

Although the Florida Statute 63.042(3) which states that "No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual." remains "on the books", the 3rd DCA Court Ruling is currently the law of the land and a gay or lesbian individual may adopt a child in Florida.

A 2nd Parent Adoption is a legal process wherein the non-biological parent of a child who is being raised by same-sex parents may petition the court to adopt the child[ren], maintaining at the same time the biological parent's parental rights.

It’s very important to do your homework when seeking legal representation.  Talk to the attorneys and find out if they have some type of political agenda that could work against you.  You certainly would not want to hire an attorney who does not believe lesbian and gay couples should have protection. 

Next article, I will get into what questions to ask and what legal options you should look for when seeking an attorney to represent you and your family.

References

Apple law Firm PLLC. Gay & Lesbian Adoption. (2011) Retrieved from: http://www.jacksonvillelawyer.pro/lawyer-attorney-1662373.html

 

 

 


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