Denver, Colorado LGBT Family Law Attorney
Dissolution of Civil Union or Gay Marriage (Gay Divorce)
Gay and lesbian couples in Colorado now have access to the same laws as do heterosexual couples when their relationships come to an end, if you are in a Colorado Civil Union or legally married. You are deemed to be in a Colorado Civil Union if:
- you entered into a civil union in a jurisdiction where legally recognized (Colorado or elsewhere)
- you are in a registered domestic partnership, if it grants rights similar to a Colorado civil union (this includes few domestic partnerships; it is best to seek advice from an attorney if you think your domestic partnership qualifies as a Colorado civil union)
A dissolution of civil union or gay marriage is based on the same laws as heterosexual divorce, therefore, please refer to the Colorado Family Law page of this website.
Domestic Partnership Agreements
Non-married same-sex couples have many, if not all, of the same legal issues as do married or civil unioned couples, but the legal tools we use to assist them are sometimes different. For instance, couples who are not married or in a civil union do not have access to the divorce process, but they, just like all parents, do have access to the family courts for issues involving children. Non-married couples can also take advantage of domestic partnership agreements and second-parent adoptions.
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.
Maternity and Paternity Cases
Maternity and paternity are not defined solely by biology; you do not have to be biologically related to your child to be declared the child’s mother or father. If you have raised the child in your home and have held the child out as your child, then you may qualify to file a maternity or paternity action and have the court declare you a legal parent to the child and have your name added to the birth certificate. For example, this option works well for a lesbian mother who is not the birth mother of her child but she and her partner had the child together and raise the child together. This option eliminates the need for an adoption and is, therefore, often faster and less expensive. And, the legal or birth parent need not consent, so it might be an option even after the couple separates.
Second-Parent and Step-parent Adoptions
Second-parent and step-parent adoptions offer avenues for the adoption of one spouse/partner's legal child by his or her same-sex spouse or partner. If you are in a Colorado civil union (see qualifying relationships above) or are legally married, then you may be eligible to do a step-parent adoption of your partner or spouse's child. Step-parent adoptions do not require a home study, as do second parent adoptions. Second parent adoption is still a good option for couples who are not legally married or in a civil union. Adoption makes the adopting 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, both parents. If the couple separates, 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).
For those gay and lesbian parents who are not married to or in a civil union with their child's legal parent, Colorado law does offer some protections. Under Colorado family law, it is possible for the non-biological or non-adoptive parent to be recognized as a parent. This is true even if the second parent has not gone through the second-parent adoption process. Under the doctrine of psychological parent or under the Uniform Parentage Act (a maternity or paternity action), the court may recognize the parental role of a second adult in a child’s life. That 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.
Birth Certificate Changes
Colorado law permits transgendered individuals born in Colorado to change the gender on their birth certificates. Colorado Revised Statutes, § 25-2-115(4), provides:
"Upon receipt of a certified copy of an order of a court of competent jurisdiction indicating that the sex of an individual born in this state has been changed by surgical procedure and that such individual's name has been changed, the certificate of birth of such individual shall be amended as prescribed by regulation."
We can help transgendered clients change their names and obtain the necessary court order to change the gender on their birth certificates. We recognize how important and affirming this process is for transgendered clients, and am happy to assist them with the legal aspects of their transition. If you have undergone gender reassignment surgery, and were born in Colorado, please give us a call.
PLEASE REMEMBER: This statute pertains only to birth certificates issued in Colorado. We cannot help with birth certificates issued out-of-state.
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