Colorado LGBT Family Law Attorney
Colorado's same-sex couples and their families do not have all of the same legal tools to help them resolve their legal issues as do heterosexual couples. There are, however, several tools an informed attorney can use to assist LGBT clients. It is important to obtain an attorney committed to keeping abreast of changes in the law affecting the GLBT community in Colorado.
Domestic Partnership Agreements
Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Colorado, but gay and lesbian couples can enter into domestic partnership agreements offering many, but far from all, of the same rights married couples enjoy.
Domestic Partnership Agreements are legal contracts that can provide rights and obligations such as:
- Property rights, including agreeing to an "equitable" division of property and debt should the domestic partnership end
- Right to "spousal" maintenance
- Allocation of parental responsibilities (parenting time, decision-making, and child support) for children born into or adopted during the domestic partnership
- Right to hospital visitation
Clients entering into a domestic partnership agreement should also consider estate planning documents addressing the right to inherit and the authority to make health care, financial and end-of-life decisions.
Second-parent adoption offers an avenue for the adoption of one partner's legal child by his or her same-sex partner. Second parent adoption in Colorado allows an individual to petition the court to adopt the legal child of another adult who is the sole legal parent of the child. The sole legal parent must consent to the adoption by the other adult. This form of adoption is frequently used by gay and lesbian couples to make the non-biological or non-adoptive parent a legal parent under Colorado law, with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with being a legal parent to a child. For instance, the child will be recognized as a legal heir of, with the right to inherit from, each parent. If the couple breaks up, both parents will have equal rights under Colorado laws dealing with the allocation of parental responsibilities (custody, decision-making for the child, and child support).
GLBT parents are often worried about what their sexual orientation may mean for their parental rights. Under Colorado law, sexual orientation is not a factor to be considered by the court when making parenting decisions. Nor is the court to consider the fact that the parent may be living with a same-sex partner. The standard for making parenting decisions is the best interest of the child. This, of course, does not mean that the other parent will accept Colorado law and not attempt to make the parent’s sexual orientation an issue. Or, the other parent may be so unable to accept his or her former partner’s sexual orientation that s/he tries to find other ways to limit the parent’s involvement in the child’s life. It is important to have a family law attorney familiar with these dynamics and how to defend against them.
Same-sex couples, of course, are not immune to parenting disputes. They have children. They break-up. They often have disputes regarding the children. Under Colorado family law, it is possible for the non-biological or non-adoptive parent to be recognized as a parent, with many of the same rights and responsibilities as the biological or adoptive parent. This is true even if the second parent has not gone through the second-parent adoption process. Under the doctrine of psychological parent, the court recognizes the parental role of a second adult in a child’s life. A psychological parent can be awarded custody and be awarded or ordered to pay child support.
Colorado's Designated Beneficiaries Act allows any two competent unmarried unrelated adults to designate each other as their beneficiary and decision-maker in case of incapacity. This contract covers areas such as inheritance, life insurance benefits, health insurance benefits, hospital and nursing home visitation, wrongful death claims, worker's compensation, medical decision-making, and retirement benefits.
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