Archive for May, 2010
We depart from our usual format as we want to do a shout out to Dani Smith, a graduating student at Mt. Ararat High School who is headed to Dartmouth. Dani was the Jump Start Leader this year for Southern Maine’s chapter of GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network). This past year as part of a civil rights team with her school and with work on a campaign through the Jump Start team she was able to assist in having a local card store no longer carry an offensive product, a joke pill called “gay away.” For all of Ms. Smith’s efforts she was named GLSEN’s 2010 Student Advocate of the Year and gave a speech in New York City as part of their award ceremony. National and local news covered stories about her work, including Bay Windows, the Brunswick Times Record, and the Portland Press Herald. We are encouraged that Dani and members of her generation are fighting and working towards equal human rights for all. Congratulations, Dani!
Imagine this situation: you and your partner have a child together. You are not the biological parent, and you never adopted the child because it wasn’t legal when your child was born and you never thought that you and your partner would separate. Then, something happens, and your partner forces you to leave the home and will not let you see your child. The police will not intervene because it is a “family matter,” and your child’s school and doctor will not talk to you without a court order. You are forced to go to court and have a Judge decide whether or not you are a parent of the child that you raised with your ex-partner for your child’s entire lifetime. If you do not have a lawyer, you will have to hire one or figure out how to call witnesses, present evidence, and conduct a hearing on your own, without help.
This situation does happen in Maine, but it can be avoided. The best thing that you can do to protect your rights as a parent is to adopt your child jointly with your partner. Not all states recognize same-sex adoptions. To protect yourself if you cannot adopt or if you may travel somewhere where your adoption will not be recognized, you should consult an attorney about writing up an agreement when your child is born. That agreement, called a “parenting agreement” or a “co-parenting agreement,” sets out each parent’s status and intent to raise a child together. It can also include provisions to protect you if you and your partner separate.
A co-parenting agreement can help you and your child’s other parent separate while making sure that each of you has a role to play in your child’s life. You can also use a properly executed parenting agreement as evidence in a family law case. A co-parenting agreement is a private agreement that could possibly keep you from having to enter the court system at all, and affords you protections if you do. Every same-sex couple with children should create one.