Are Gay and Lesbian Couples Disadvantaged When Seeking Custody in Ohio?
Gay and lesbian couples are often concerned that there “non-traditional family” will be a disadvantage in custody decisions. While technically this issue is never to be determinative of custody disputes, lest the Court violate the Equal Protection Clause, many gay and lesbian couples feel that their sexual orientation played a role in the ultimate disposition of the Court. Putting aside potential biases of certain judges, there is at least one case that seems to lend credence to those concerns. In 2008, the Second Appellant District in Clark County decided a case by the name of Pace v. Pace in which the Court specifically stated that a homosexual relationship of a mother caused adverse affects to the minor children and warranted a change of custody from that mother to the father. The facts of that case can be summarized as follows:
Four years after the mother was designated the residential parent of both children, the father filed a motion to modify the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. The common pleas trial Court granted the father’s motion and awarded him custody. The appellate court held that the common pleas court did not err in finding that a change of circumstances occurred as there was evidence that, as a collateral result of the mother’s relationship with her same-sex partner, both children had experienced personality disorders, and therefore, modification of custody was in the children’s best interest. The court determined that the adverse collateral effects of the mother’s relationship with her partner and the partner’s role in the children’s lives showed little room for improvement in the future.
While the Court was careful to say that it was not basing its decision on the simple fact that the mother was a lesbian, but rather the collateral affects that her relationship had on the children, it should give pause to the gay and lesbian couples fighting for custody. This is something to keep an eye on in the future as more and more gay and lesbian couples fight for custody of one of the partner’s minor children. For more information on this and other issued, talk with John Nicholson, an attorney specializing in, and fighting for, gay and lesbian rights.