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State Supreme Court rules on sexual orientation and child custody

When a family goes before a court of law to argue on issues of custody, the court is required to consider a wide range of matters that pertain to the best interests of the child or children at the center of the case. Just as no two families are ever exactly alike, nor are any two child custody cases, in Colorado or any other state. That is why the role of a family court judge is so important; he or she is expected to approach each case on its own merits, and to make a decision based on a blend of many different factors.

A recent state Supreme Court ruling in the Pacific Northwest focused on how a mother's sexual orientation impacted her ability to be a good parent to her children. The court found that a lower court ruling that gave the bulk of parenting rights and responsibilities to the father was unduly influenced by the mother's transition to a homosexual lifestyle. In making that decision, the higher court looked at testimony provided by the guardian ad litem and a therapist who worked with the children.

While intact, the family had placed a high value on providing their three children with a strong religious education, sending them to a very conservative Christian school and imparting conservative values and beliefs at home. However, when the mother determined that she wanted to live as a gay woman and left her husband, that aspect of her life was made a central component of the resulting custody battle. The guardian as litem in the case spoke at length about the difficulty that the children might have in reconciling their religious beliefs and the fact of their mother's sexual orientation, and the father was awarded custody.

In appeals, that decision was overturned, and the case will be sent back down to the lower court to be heard again, this time with a different judge presiding. That outcome may be seen as a win for many who feel that issues of homosexuality are often used to strip parents of their rights in a child custody case. As for parents in Colorado who are preparing for a custody case in which sexual orientation may become an issue, this decision provides a measure of hope.

Source:, "Lesbian mom's sexual orientation wrongly considered in custody case, state Supreme Court says", Alexis Krell, April 6, 2017

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