Civil rights for transgender individuals has been a hot topic lately with President Trump's proposal for a transgender military ban, as well as the passage of “bathroom bills” in states like Mississippi and North Carolina. For many families, however, this is not simply a matter of politics. Children who are struggling with gender identity issues often have a difficult time time coming out to their families, and even if they do, one or both parents may not support them in their decision, or exploration of medical options such as hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery.
This conflict is hard enough when parents are married, but it's exponentially more difficult when they are divorced. Don't forget; custody disputes are not just about who the child lives with. While living arrangements pertain to physical custody, both parents typically retain legal custody, or the right to participate in decisions pertaining to the child's welfare. Legal custody cases involve a wide range of topics such as athechild's education, religion, healthcare, and sexual expression. As transgender individuals gain greater social acceptance, the courts are finding themselves in the position of deciding on a child's right to happiness versus a parent's fundamental right to parent his or her child.
In an ideal situation, the parents would be able to work through this without court intervention, although they may still require help from professionals such as therapists, doctors and family law attorneys. People have a tendency to turn to lawyers only when they're about to go to court, but parents with pre-existing court orders may need to modify specific arrangements or work through disagreements throughout their children's lives. Advising on transgender issues is still a new frontier for many attorneys, but experienced family law professionals are working to better their understanding of juveniles who are struggling with gender or sexuality issues. While they cannot dictate your personal preferences, or how you should parent your child, they can help you try to reach a fair, sensible agreement that takes everyone's rights into consideration.
Family law attorneys and other custody related professionals can also help educate the judge, should you decide to proceed with litigation. Judges must, on the one hand, decide in favor of the child's best interests. It's incredibly difficult, on the other hand, to make this decision without some level of education on transgenderism, the available treatment options for children, and where the child in question is with their gender identity. These decisions typically go far beyond just the immediate issue at hand. Future considerations, such as when to start what types of treatments, how the child should be treated at school in terms of bathrooms, lockers rooms, pronoun usage, etc. may also come into play. That's why it's so important for parents, lawyers, medical professionals and judges to work in collaboration to ensure that a child's needs are truly being met. For more information on your legal custody rights, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.
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