Can I lose my rights to see my children because I'm a lesbian?

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Question:

I recently divorced my husband as I am a lesbian. We decided in our sons' best interest that he have custody of our children. I do have visitation rights of one night per week and every second weekend. Whilst my former husband and I are happy with the custody arrangement, my parents are opposed to my homosexuality and are threatening to challenge my visitation rights to my children. Do they have any grounds to do this?

Answer:

There is a good chance that time will be your friend -- and that your parents will come around to believing that the only orientation that matters is a loving one.

Until then, the courts are on your side. At least most of them. At least partially. Generally, a court will abide by any custody arrangement amicably reached by both biological parents of the child. Of course, a judge can alter the agreement based on what he or she perceives as being in the best interest of a child.

Still, before denying or greatly restricting a parent's right to see his or her child, the court is supposed to find extreme behavior -- like child abuse, violence, repeated drunkenness, or sexual acts in front of the children. Since you now have limited visitation, a court is not likely to step in and further reduce a mother's right to see her children -- especially if both parents and kids are happy with the arrangement.

And while grandparents are gaining ground in being awarded visitation rights, that is usually in the cases where they have been cut out of the loop, not when they are trying to take away a parent's rights.

You might want to arm yourself with some literature while you monitor the evolving legal situation. The National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco provides publications such as Lesbian Mother Litigation Manual, State by State Guide to Child Custody, and A Lesbian and Gay Parents' Legal Guide to Child Custody. Its Web address is www.nclrights.org; phone is 415-392-6257. You might also want to do some preemptive striking by contacting the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at www.ngltf.org; phone 202-332-6483. The group provides attorney referrals.

An attorney is not likely to get involved until a lawsuit has actually been filed; however, letting your parents know that there are organizations and resources available to assist you may stop them from pursuing the matter.

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