Even with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the family laws governing LGBTQ families are still murky to many. This is especially true when it comes to child custody matters. Many LGBTQ couples often start their families through adoption, artificial insemination or surrogacy, and the laws governing these practices and family systems in general are still catching up to the marriage equality ruling.
Here are a few clarifications on some of the most common questions same-sex parents might have about their custody rights in Colorado.
Getting married doesn’t necessarily guarantee you parental rights
Even though marriage equality is now the law of the entire nation, getting married isn’t a magic talisman when it comes to some legal matters, including custody. This means nonbiological parents may need to obtain additional legal protections to assert their parental rights. You can often do this through stepparent adoption or what’s called "second parent" adoption. Second parent adoption is typically used in cases of surrogacy and artificial insemination, since the child’s other biological parent is likely unknown.
How Colorado handles birth certificates
Birth certificates have long been a concern for members of the LGBTQ community. In the decades before Obergefell v. Hodges, only the child’s biological parents could be listed on their birth certificate. This policy created many court battles for same-sex couples, whose marriages may or may not have been recognized to begin with.
Thankfully, in Colorado, a birth certificate must list the person’s legal spouse, regardless of gender, at the time of birth. So you will automatically be listed as your child’s other parent if you are married at the time of the birth. Even still, it’s a good idea to also formally adopt the child through second parent adoption or by seeking a court judgment of parentage. As with being married itself, being named on your child’s birth certificate doesn’t guarantee your parental rights will be respected in every state, even if it does in Colorado.
Get trusted answers and advocacy
Starting a family is an exciting time for all types of families. Until the rest of our family laws are truly made gender neutral, however, a qualified family law attorney can help you set up proper legal protections to establish your parental rights. That way, even if you move out of state or your family changes through divorce or separation, your connection to your kids remains secure.