We support LGBT and same-sex families
The attorney and staff at Haas & Associates, P.A. know that families come in many different forms. We help two-parent families, same-sex couples, single parents, multi-generational families, foster families and those related not by blood, but by love. Regardless of the form the family takes, our first concern is to achieve security for all families and to put the interests of the children first. Our goal is to develop creative and effective solutions to protect LGBT families in partnership, estate planning, adoption and parentage matters.
As of October 10, 2014, same-sex couples are now allowed to get legally married in North Carolina, and their out-of state marriages will also be recognized as of the date of marriage. As a result, same-sex married couples are now subject to the same laws as heterosexual married couples; which means they can take advantage of the many benefits associated with marriage, as well as be subject to the same obligations that accompany marriage. After serving the LGBT community for over a decade, we at Haas & Associates, P.A. understand the many ramifications that result from the overturning of Amendment One (NC's previous constitutional ban on same-sex marriages). Consult with an attorney at Haas & Associates, P.A. to learn more about the possible ramifications of your current or anticipated same-sex marriage, and feel free to review our frequently-asked-questions about marriage, divorce and parentage.
Angela Haas speaks to WRAL News
Angela Haas was interviewed on WRAL News about the future of same-sex marriage in North Carolina, after Amendment One was ruled to be unconstitutional. Click here to watch the full newscast, and fast forward to the 08:44 mark to watch Angela's interview.
Forming, Securing and Protecting Families
Parentage and Custody
Although Second-parent Adoptions are no longer available in North Carolina, there are a number of ways that LGBT individuals and couples can become parents, which now include Stepparent Adoptions for married couples where one party to the marriage wants to adopt their spouse's child(ren). As a general rule, you must be married for at lest 6 months before filing for a Stepparent Adoption; however, there are exceptions. As a general rule, a Court Report may be required in a Stepparent Adoption if you have not been married for at least 2 years; however, there are exceptions. Consult with an attorney at Haas & Associates, P.A. to learn more about the adoption possibilities related to your specific situation.
For information regarding family formation through the use of egg donors, sperm donors, or surrogacy, please visit our assisted reproduction law page. The attorneys at Haas & Associates, P.A. pride ourselves on keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of rights available to same-sex individuals and couples. Contact us today, as the number of options available may surprise you!
Custody in LGBT and Non-traditional Families
The same decision that struck down Second Parent Adoptions in North Carolina (Boseman v. Jarrell) in 2010, actually strengthened child custody rights for non-biological/legal same-sex parents. Other recent North Carolina case law has also shown a trend towards recognizing custodial rights in non-biological/non-legal parents. It is important for LGBT couples who are parents or looking to become parents to understand their rights and obligations regarding their children both during the relationship, and in the event that the relationship (between the parents) were to end.
- Legal Custody: Depending on your circumstances, joint legal custody may be an available option for LGBT parents. For more about custody, please visit our child custody page.
- Parenting Agreements: This agreement will lay out the parties' intentions regarding the rights and responsibilities of each parent both during the relationship, and if the relationship were to end. In analyzing North Carolina case law, it appears that judges have relied heavily on the existence and content of parenting agreements in making custody determinations in non-traditional families. For families in which both partners are intended to be parents, even if one partner is not biologically or legally related to the child, a parenting agreement is one of the greatest manifestations of your intent to be a two-parent family with permanent parent-child relationships between the children and both partners or same-sex spouses.
Information for Non-Biological/Non-Legal Parents
For custody disputes between two biological or two legal parents, the court examines the question of what custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the child. When there is a custody issue between a non-biological/non-legal parent and a biological/legal parent, the court will first have to find that the non-biological/non-legal parent has standing to pursue custody of the child. Only if the court decides that the non-biological/non-legal parent does have standing, will the court examine what is in the best interests of the child.
When deciding custody issues between a biological/legal parent and a non-biological/legal parent, North Carolina courts have often looked for evidence of the intent of the biological/legal parent to create a permanent parent-child relationship between the other party and the child. The existence of a parenting agreement is strong and clear evidence of that intent. However, the court will also analyze other factors, like those listed below, to examine the intent of the biological/legal parent. The more questions in which the non-biological/non-legal parent can answer "yes," the more likely it is that the court will find that you have standing to pursue custody of your child. In addition to the questions listed below, whether and when (and under what circumstances) you became married to the biological/legal parent may also play an important role in determining the extent of your parenting rights.
- Did you assist in choosing a donor or surrogate?
- Did the donor purposely have physical characteristics similar to yours?
- Did you contribute financially to the purchase of the donations?
- Did you sign a sperm donor, egg donor, gestational carrier, or other agreement?
- Did you attend medical appointments with the child’s biological/legal parent?
- Did you attend pre-natal appointments?
- Did you attend child birthing or other classes with the child’s biological/legal parent?
- Did you contribute financially to the prenatal medical treatment?
- Did you attend a baby shower with the child’s biological/legal parent? Did you hold yourself out as an intended parent at said event?
- Did your family behave like prospective grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.?
- Did you hold yourself out to the OB/GYN or other providers as an intended parent?
- Did you participate in decorating the nursery or other pre-birth preparations?
- Did you or the child’s biological/legal parent fill out any forms during the pregnancy where you are listed as “mother” “father” or “other parent?”
- Did you attend the birth?
- Did you hold yourself out to the hospital staff and personnel as the child’s other parent?
- Did you send out birth announcements where you were listed as a parent?
- Did members of your extended family attend the birth or visit the child in the hospital?
- Did you cut the umbilical cord?
- Did you feed or hold the child while the child was still in the nursery/hospital?
- Were you extended special privileges at the hospital by virtue of being the child’s other parent?
- Did you communicate with doctors or other medical personnel about the health or status of the child?
- Did you consent to any neonatal medical treatment for the child?
- Did you participate in selecting the child’s name?
- Does the child’s name have any relation to your name? (i.e., – your surname is the child’s first or middle name; your surname is hyphenated with the child’s surname; the child’s first, middle, or last name is a family name from your family, etc.)
- Were you present to bring the child home from the hospital?
- Did you make any requests to be on the child’s birth certificate?
- Did you or the child’s biological/legal parent fill out any forms with the hospital where you are listed as “mother” “father” or “other parent?”
- Did you participate in adoption-related research?
- Did you jointly select an agency?
- Did you jointly select a birth mother, birth family, or child?
- Did you jointly select a country to adopt the child from (if international adoption)?
- Did you make any attempt to jointly adopt the child from the child’s home state/country? If not, why not?
- Were you interviewed by the adoption agency?
- Are you in the homestudy related to the adoption? If so, how are you described? (intended mother/father, partner, roommate, member of household, etc.)
- Did you travel to pick the child up from his/her birth location?
- Did you participate in readying your household for the child? (nursery/bedroom, etc.)
- Did you contribute financially to the costs of the adoption?
- Did you provide gifts/pictures/etc. to the child prior to the adoption that identified you as an intended parent?
- Did you or the child’s legal parent hold yourselves out to the adoption agency as the child’s intended parents?
- Was your health status, income, or other data considered by the agency in determining whether to grant an adoption?
- Did you participate in selecting medical care providers for the child?
- Did you attend doctor appointments with the child?
- Did you or the child’s biological/legal parent fill out any forms with any medical provider where you are listed as “mother” “father” or “other parent?”
- Have you held yourself out to the child’s medical providers as the other parent?
- Do you have a Minor Healthcare Power of Attorney or Consent To Medical Treatment of a Minor or any other writing that grants you authority to make medical decisions for the child?
- Do you believe the child’s current doctor could identify you/ remember speaking or meeting with you?
- Do you believe the child’s medical providers consider you to be the child’s other parent?
- Did you attend any surgeries or hospitalizations of the child?
- Did/do you contribute financially to medical care for the child?
- Is the child on/has the child ever been on your health insurance?
- If the child has any special needs, are you educated about those needs?
- If the child has any special needs, are you trained to meet those needs?
- Have you missed work to stay at home with the child when he/she is sick?
- Did you participate in selecting daycare or school for the child?
- Do you visit the child at daycare/school?
- Have you chaperoned field trips or attended other classroom events?
- Have you met the child’s current teachers?
- Do you believe the child’s current teachers could identify you/ remember speaking or meeting with you?
- Are you aware of how the child is performing in school?
- Are you aware of the child’s favorite subject?
- Are you aware of the child’s stronger and weaker academic subjects?
- Have you assisted the child with his/her homework or test preparation?
- Have you attended parent/teacher conferences? (if so, how many/for how many years?)
- Are you a member of the PTA or other school organizations?
- Have you participated in the child’s school discipline? (Been called by school personnel for behavioral or disciplinary infractions? Participated in disciplinary meetings/suspensions/etc)
- Did you or the child’s biological/legal parent fill out any forms with any educational provider where you are listed as “mother” “father” or “other parent?”
- Are you an emergency contact on daycare/school paperwork?
- Are you authorized to pick the child up from daycare/school?
- Have you contributed to college preparation, selection, or a college fund for the child?
- Did you/do you contribute financially to the child’s educational needs? (tuition at daycare or private school, before/after school care, field trips, etc)
- Do you teach, lead, or coach any of the child’s extracurricular activities?
- Have you attended any of the child’s extracurricular activities (performances, classes, games, etc.) If so, how many/ what percentage of the total?
- Have you contributed financially to the child’s extracurricular activities?
- Do you believe the child’s current extracurricular teacher/leader/coach could identify you/ remember speaking or meeting with you?
- Are you an emergency contact for any of the child’s extracurricular activities?
- Are you authorized to pick the child up from extracurricular activities?
- Did you or the child’s biological/legal parent fill out any forms with any extracurricular provider where you are listed as “mother” “father” or “other parent?”
Now that same-sex marriages are available and recognized in North Carolina, same-sex couples are also able to utilize North Carolina separation and divorce statutes to assist them with dissolution of their marital union. While "divorce" itself is the definitive line between being married and no longer being married, there are many other issues related to a divorce that should be addressed. These include division of property and support rights, in addition to many other rights and obligations which can be lost if not properly preserved. At Haas & Associates, P.A., our experience with handling various disputes related to the break up of heterosexual married couples can be a valuable resource, especially when combined with our experience with same-sex couples and the application of marriage law to same-sex couples. See our "Family Law" section for more information, and call us for more information regarding your specific situation.
Same-sex couples who are not married, but still desire to dissolve their relationship, will be subject to the North Carolina laws that were not designed to be used in domestic contexts, and often result in clumsy and inappropriate outcomes. That is why it is extremely important for same-sex partners to draft a partnership agreement that sets out each party's right and obligations both during the relationship, and in the event that the relationship dissolves. Often, these agreements can make all the difference in how your relationship rights will be handled, in the event of a future dispute. At Haas & Associates, P.A., our experience with handling various disputes related to the break up of same-sex couples, especially when a partnership agreement has not yet been drafted or executed, can be a valuable resource. Call us for more information regarding your specific situation.
Partnership agreements are particularly important for couples where:
- Real estate is owned jointly
- There is a great income disparity between partners
- A majority of the couple's assets and/or debts are titled solely in one partner's name
- One partner stays at home due to illness, disability, or to raise children
- The couple is in a long-term relationship
- The couple is not married in any state or country, and/or does not intend to marry
Here are some facts to consider regarding the dangers to unmarried same-sex couples:
- Unmarried same-sex couples cannot ask a court to equitably divide their jointly owned property. Instead, they may be subject to filing a "Petition to Partition" in which the court will divide the property based on each party's "contribution." This could mean that in a case where one partner arbitrarily wrote all of the mortgage checks from his account and the other partner arbitrarily wrote checks for other household and living expenses from his account, the court could find that the partner who happened to write the mortgage checks made 100% of the "contribution" to the property, and is therefore entitled to all of it. Partnership agreements can give guidance and control for how to handle jointly owned property in a fair and appropriate manner.
- There is currently no available way for one partner to compel a share of the other partner's retirement accounts upon separation. In contrast, all income earned during a marriage (regardless of who earned it or where it is deposited) is considered marital under NC law, which means that one spouse can compel a marital share of the other spouse's retirement accounts (even if they are in the sole name of the other spouse) if the income earned during the marriage was deposited there. This often means that if one partner was a stay-at-home partner or parent while the other partner earned income that was then deposited into his/her retirement or other sole accounts, the stay-at-home partner/parent may be denied a share of those accounts despite his/her contributions to the household and to the earning potential of the other partner. In addition, even if the couple agrees to split up their retirement accounts, it may be impossible to transfer any portion of certain retirement accounts to your same-sex partner tax-free. Partnership agreements can give guidance and control for how to handle asset division, as well as tax and retirement planning.In addition, even if the couple agrees to split up their retirement accounts, it may be impossible to transfer any portion of certain retirement accounts to your same-sex partner tax-free.
- Alimony is not available to unmarried same-sex partners in North Carolina. Without an agreement to the contrary, one partners cannot compel his/her ex-partner to pay for his/her support/maintenance. Partnership agreements can provide for post-separation support, if appropriate, and can set out the conditions and time-frame that support will be paid (* see an attorney and tax professional for advice regarding the implications of paying/receiving post-separation support from a same sex ex-partner).
- There are very few ways to compel a same-sex partner to vacate the shared residence, and "landlord/tenant" law may be applied (inappropriately) as the only available means to compel eviction. Same-sex partners should decide, in advance, who will move out, under what conditions, and in what time-frame if the relationship were to end. These agreements should be contained in a partnership agreement.
- For unmarried same-sex couples, there is no recognized "marital share" in "personal property" like furniture, electronics, and pets. These items should be discussed in a partnership agreement.
Consult with an attorney at Haas & Associates, P.A. to learn more about the possible ramifications of, and options concerning, your current or anticipated same-sex marriage and/or "divorce" (separation).
Transgender individuals incur a myriad of legal obstacles before, during and after their transition from one sex to another including—
It is important to obtain the proper protection before, during and after the process. The attorneys of Haas & Associates, P.A. are here to advise and help.