Same-sex marriage and child custody issues

Since the passage of The Civil Marriage Protection Act in 2012, the marriages of same-sex couples in Maryland have been legally recognized. As a result, these couples are afforded many of the same rights and privileges previously only afforded to heterosexual couples including tax breaks, Social Security benefits and medical insurance coverage.

While Maryland has made great strides in how the state addresses the rights of same-sex couples, for many matters related to child custody are still viewed as outdated and discriminatory.

For lesbian couples, issues related to child custody can become especially contentious as, upon a child's birth, the biological mother is automatically granted sole child custody. Prior to February 2013, women who were in a same-sex marriage where a partner carried the child were not allowed to sign a child's birth certificate. All that changed roughly 20 months ago when the state began allowing non-biological mothers to sign a child's birth certificate.

While heralded as a victory by lesbians, outside of Maryland, a birth certificate alone is not sufficient in protecting the child custody rights of a non-biological mom. While a growing number of states now legally recognize same-sex marriage, the majority still do not. Therefore, the child custody and parentage rights of lesbians who marry and have children in Maryland may be in question when traveling or relocating to another state.

To help protect one's right to legally be recognized as a child's parent, non-biological moms who are in same-sex relationships or marriages should take steps to legally adopt a child. There have been many cases involving heartbreaking child custody and visitation fights between same-sex couples. Maryland residents, who are dealing with problems related to a same-sex couple child custody dispute, would be wise to contact an attorney.

Source: Equality Maryland, "Marriage," 2014