If you are in a same-sex relationship or marriage and are now facing a separation or divorce, and you and your partner have children, a child support attorney could answer your questions. In Washington, D.C., both legal parents have an obligation to financially support their child, regardless of the status of the parent’s relationship. With some exceptions, a child born into a marriage is considered the legal child of both spouses. However, because same-sex couples could not legally marry in all states until 2015, there are many situations where one partner is the birth or legal parent of a child, but the other partner is not.
When addressing child support following the dissolution of a same-sex relationship, it is essential to understand the legal relationship between each parent and the child and how to calculate the amount of support based on the time the child lives with each parent. A Washington, D.C. same-sex child support lawyer is aware of the challenges in same-sex child support cases and could work to ensure that the correct amount of child support is paid by the appropriate party.
Who is Obligated to Pay Child Support?
Generally, the obligation to pay child support depends on the status of each partner’s legal relationship to the child. It is important to understand how different relationship statuses impact the legal parent-child relationship.
Married Same-Sex Couples
Since the legalization of same-sex marriage, a child born to a married same-sex couple is the legal child of both partners, regardless of who gave birth or who adopted the child. Accordingly, it is no longer necessary to complete a second-parent adoption to be a legal parent. If the same-sex marriage ends in divorce, a court could order the noncustodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent, who is the parent with whom the child lives most of the time.
Unmarried Same-Sex Couples
If two female partners were in a relationship and one partner gave birth to a child, the other partner is only the legal parent to that child if she adopted the child or if she establishes herself as a de facto parent. This same analysis applies to a male same-sex relationship where one partner adopted a child or entered a surrogacy contract and the other partner did not join in the adoption or the surrogacy arrangement. A de facto parent is someone who is a current or recent caregiver for a child, has assumed a parenting role on a day-to-day basis, and has been meeting the child’s physical and emotional needs for love and affection for a substantial time.
If a judge grants de facto parent status, despite that person being neither a biological nor an adoptive parent of the child, the de facto parent may be required to pay child support. A knowledgeable lawyer familiar with same-sex child support cases could assist a Washington, D.C. party in establishing, or arguing against, de facto parent status for a former partner.
Washington, D.C. is one of the few states or districts that still legalize domestic partnerships. If a child is born to a couple who has properly registered as a domestic partnership, that child is considered the legal child of both partners, and both should support the child financially. If the partnership dissolves, the noncustodial partner may be obligated to pay child support to the partner who retains the child’s custody.
If same-sex partners with a child or children are not married, have not registered as domestic partners, or both have not adopted the child, and neither partner seeks de facto parent status, the partner who did not give birth or adopt the child has no legal rights to the child and no legal obligation to pay child support. The proper identification of the legal relationship between the child and the individuals who intend to be that child’s parents is one reason it is essential to consult with a same-sex child support lawyer if child support is at issue in the couple’s separation.
How Child Support is Calculated
Courts use a child support model that incorporates aspects of both the income shares and percentage of income models. The support amount is based on the parties’ gross incomes and provides a self-support reserve for each parent. If one parent is already paying child support for a child from a different relationship, that support amount is deducted from the parent’s income before the child support obligation is calculated.
D.C. Code §16-916.01 sets forth the Child Support Guidelines and, with few exceptions, a judge must use these Guidelines. If a child spends at least thirty-five percent of the time with each parent, the judge has the discretion to modify the guidelines and determine a support amount that the judge deems equitable for the parents and the child. An experienced lawyer in Washington, D.C. could help calculate the correct amount of child support based on the Guidelines, the custodial and visitation schedule, and any other unique circumstances of the same-sex child support case.
How a Washington DC Same-Sex Child Support Attorney Could Help
Child support calculations can be complex, and factors other than the parent’s incomes, such as health insurance, the child’s medical expenses, and certain extracurricular activity fees should be considered. Additionally, it can be difficult to accurately determine a parent’s income if that parent is self-employed, does not report all their income, or has fluctuating income due to receiving overtime, bonuses, or commissions. A Washington, D.C. same-sex child support lawyer is familiar with the nuances of a child support case and could work to ensure that all relevant factors are considered when calculating support. Call today for a private consultation.