LGBT Family Law FAQs

Get Answers to your LGBT Family Law FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

LGBT divorce & family law is a rapidly changing area of law in New Jersey. Bari Z. Weinberger, New Jersey family law expert, offers answers to commonly asked questions regarding family law in New Jersey and how it relates to LGBT individuals and couples. How do marriages and civil unions differ? What about adoption and same-sex couples? What about financial issues or custody if you end a marriage versus a civil union? Get answers to your FAQs regarding same-sex marriage, divorce, dissolution, civil unions, adoptions, child custody, and more.

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What is the current status of LGBT marriage in New Jersey?

As of October 2013, same sex marriage became legal in the State of New Jersey. Since then, many same-sex couples have wondered about what this legal status means for their relationship: what happens to domestic partnerships and civil unions that existed before 2013? Have they been automatically converted into a same sex marriage? The short answer is no, so if you are in one of these relationship types (a domestic partnership or civil union), you are not in a New Jersey marriage. Same-sex couples who wish to can convert these domestic partnerships and civil unions converted by obtaining a marriage license.

LGBT marriage is legally no different from heterosexual marriage. If you are planning to wed, it is wise — as it is for any engaged couple — to consider a prenuptial agreement. You want to be mindful of your rights, your responsibilities and ultimately your obligations, and you want to protect yourself where it’s necessary. In the event your marital relationship breaks down, be aware that with same-sex marriage also comes with equal rights to divorce.

My partner and I adopted a child, but we are now separated.

Do I have to pay child support? Yes. New Jersey law with regard to custody, parenting time and child support are gender neutral. Since you adopted the child, you are both the child’s legal guardians and, as such, responsible for the financial care of that child, just as if you were biological parents. Child support is calculated through the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines and is based on your and your ex-partner’s income and other factors.

How do we know if a private adoption agency is gay friendly?

Many private adoption agencies in New Jersey are friendly to LGBT couples looking to grow their families. The All Children-All Families Initiative of the Human Rights Campaingn maintains a list of agencies that have met or are looking to meet 10 benchmarks in LGBT cultural competency.

I want to have parenting time with my child. I am a lesbian. Are New Jersey laws different for LGBT parents?

No. The family courts apply our gender-neutral laws and statutes. Decisions regarding parenting time, custody or any other issue relating to children are based only upon what is in the best interests of the child. They are never based on a parent’s gender, race, religion or sexual orientation.

I didn’t adopt my partner’s child, but we lived together for 9 years and I supported her emotionally and financially. Do I have any rights?

Maybe. In New Jersey, there is a doctrine called “The Psychological Parent Doctrine” where a person steps into the shoes of a parent through frequent and ongoing support of the child. If you have forged a very strong bond with your ex-partner’s child and can show the court that it was the intention of the family that you act as a parent, you may be viewed as the psychological parent and receive some rights such as parenting time rights with the child.

Can my partner and I legally use a surrogate?

Surrogacy in New Jersey is legal, but surrogacy contracts are not. You cannot legally pay a fee to someone for being your surrogate; however you can provide compensation for medical and travel expenses and other costs related to the pregnancy and delivery. If you and your partner are considering a surrogate, consult with an experienced attorney, be sure that your surrogate has her own counsel and learn as much as you can regarding the law, procedures and costs before you enter into any agreement.

What are the requirements to register a Domestic Partnership?

Couples wishing to register a Domestic Partnership must be same-sex couples OR opposite-sex couples who are both 62 years of age or older. Couples must also meet the following requirements:

  1. Share a common residence in New Jersey or in any other jurisdiction provided that at least one of the applicants is a member of a New Jersey State-administered retirement system;
  2. Both persons are jointly responsible for each other’s common welfare as evidenced by joint financial arrangements or joint ownership of real or personal property;
  3. Both persons agree to be jointly responsible for each other’s basic living expenses during the domestic partnership;
  4. Neither applicant is in a marriage or civil union recognized by New Jersey law or a member of another domestic partnership;
  5. Neither person is related to the other by blood or affinity up to and including the fourth degree of consanguinity;
  6. Both persons have chosen to share each other’s lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring;
  7. Neither applicant has terminated another domestic partnership within the last 180 days.
    (This prohibition shall not apply when the previous partnership ended due to the death of the other partner.)

For further information, legal forms and additional requirements feel free to contact us or check out the State of New Jersey’s printable information on Registering a Domestic Partnership in New Jersey found here: www.state.nj.us/health/forms/reg-d33.pdf

Do you have questions about adoption? Triparenting? LGBT marriage or divorce? Ask your question online or contact us to schedule a free consultation to get answers to your burning questions and plan a strategy for your future.  Contact us today. Secure your future. Call us: (888) 888-0919.

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