Supporting Your Transgendered Child: What Happens When Divorced Parents Disagree?
Parents play a very important role in a gender-expansive and transgendered child’s life. As research shows, supportive parenting can significantly affect the transgendered child’s ability to have a positive outlook on their lives, their mental health and their self-esteem. On the other hand, research also shows that unsupportive parenting is correlated to gender-expansive and transgendered youth being more depressed and suicidal. As child psychologists who specialize in gender issues agree, the most crucial thing parents can do is allow children to be exactly who they are.
But what happens if you are a separated or divorced parent and your ex disagrees with you regarding how to parent, guide and support your transgendered child?
This is without question a burgeoning area of the law with regard to parenting and custody. Unfortunately, many judges have little to no knowledge or experience with the issues related to gender and children. If you child lives in two households or if your ex has parenting time and you are facing disagreement with your ex, you want decide to seek family therapy and/or mediation as your first approach to this conflict. Attempting to work out your own issues through mediation or other form of alternative dispute resolution can save you time, emotion and money in the long run. Of course, coming together with your ex in an attempt to forge your own agreement means compromise, especially if your child is very young.
If you are unable to work through your differences with your child’s other parent, you may have to seek the assistance of the family court to make decisions regarding child custody or parenting time. The family court judges will always look to the best interests of your child first and will weigh each side’s argument and evidence presented to the court, in order to determine exactly what is in your child’s best interests. You may need to present expert witness testimony and reports to the court the support your side. These experts can be your child’s medical doctor or therapist; experts familiar with your child and family who can help the court understand your child’s needs and who can speak to the court about what they believe is in your gender-expansive child’s best interests. Regardless of what status your custody or parenting time case is in, collaboration between parents, child, medical, legal and mental health professionals is critical in these types of cases.
As another resource, you may wish to ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem, who will work with all parties involved, including your child, to come up with a recommendation for the court that will help the judge determine what is in the best interests of your child. Particularly helpful is the guardian’s ability to talk to your child directly to determine his or her thoughts and feelings relating to the custody or parenting time issue. This gives a voice directly to the child, who may not have such an opportunity to be heard otherwise.
Other legal issues parents of transgendered children may encounter include amending identity documents such as birth certificates, health insurance coverage and custody.
Be sure to enlist the services of professionals who have experience with these types of family law cases, including a family law attorney who is qualified in all areas of New Jersey child custody and parenting time. You must feel comfortable working with all the professionals who will be instrumental in shaping your gender-expansive or transgendered child.
To discuss your child’s needs and any parenting time and/or custody concerns, please contact us today to schedule your initial confidential consultation. Our family law attorneys are compassionate, knowledgeable, and here to safeguard your child’s future.