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Resolving custody issues in same-sex divorce cases

Given that is has been only in recent years that same-sex marriages have been legally recognized in the U.S., it may come as little surprise to learn that much confusion still surrounds the application of family law principles to such unions. Yet the growth of such marriages has prompted the need to develop appropriate interpretations of statutes related to marriage and the family. Indeed, the Pew Research Center reports that there may be up to 71,165 legally married same-sex couples in America. With this rise in same-sex marriages has also come an increase in same-sex divorces, which has forced California lawmakers to rule on how laws such as child custody and support apply to these cases. 

The issue of custody (and, by extension, child support) as it applies to same-sex couples has encountered obstacles in its interpretation due to the unique nature of the parent-child relationship in such cases. Typically, only one parent has a biological connection to the children, which may call into question the role the other should have in visiting and supporting them should the couple split. In the past, custody rulings in such cases tended to favor the biological parent, excluding the other from any visitation rights. At the same time, due to the other parent not having a biological link to the children, courts were often hesitant to require him or her to pay child support. 

That all changed (at least in California) in 2005, when the state Supreme Court ruled to extend the "best interest of the child" standard established in section 3011 of the California Family Code to same-sex couples. Now, the same factors used to determine custody in traditional divorce cases are applied to those involving same-sex couples. The same is true when determining if one parent in a same-sex relationship should pay child support. 

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