Custody, Visitation and Divorce: Things to Remember…

There are some things that seem only right when facing a breakup that involves children, particularly when that parting means one parent may be cut off from contact if the strict letter of the law comes into play. In same-sex marriages, this situation can make for heartache for both the child and the parent.

It’s not hard to imagine the turmoil in the life of a child when a second parent without any legal standing struggles to maintain a relationship with a child he or she help raise even as the other partner argues that the second parent should not visit the child. Both the legal parent and the second parent must remember that the child’s needs come first, particularly a child riding in the high seas of a divorce. In this situation, the child’s emotional needs should have the highest priority.

When someone is the sole legal parent who genuinely believes that visitation with the former partner would be harmful to the child, there might be a reason to prevent it. But if the only reason a former partner doesn’t have parental rights is the two partners couldn’t get married, and it would have happened if it could have, then it is wrong — morally if not legally — to deny him or her access to a child raised together. The fact that a former partner might be a flawed person does not justify it, and conflicts are not grounds to cut off contact with a child, either. If character flaws and conflict justified cutting off a person’s contact with his or her child, no one would have visitation rights.

Denying visitation to avoid ongoing contact with an alienated former partner is selfish when the child considers him or her a parent. For a child riding the high seas of a breakup the sudden break in the relationship with an important caretaker means much more than the fine points of custody and visitation.

Former same-sex partners can make an effort to acknowledge honestly what agreements they made about parenting and about sharing custody — and try to do the right thing because doing the right thing, in long run, benefits both the parents and the child.

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