Love is love, and family is family. That said, many LGBTQ+ families and individuals face family law issues that cisgender and/or heterosexual individuals don’t. Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States in 2015, but that case, unfortunately, did not eliminate all legal difficulties for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples.
At Welty Law Office, we believe strongly that all Tennesseans deserve to be treated with dignity and to have their essential legal rights protected. We are committed to supporting LGBTQ+ individuals, couples, and families and meeting their family law needs.
It is important to us at Welty Law Office that everyone with whom we work feel welcomed, supported, and completely free to be their authentic selves. We provide a range of services designed to meet the legal needs of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families.
While many legal processes are the same as those for opposite-sex couples, the relatively recent changes in the law regarding same-sex couples mean that additional measures may need to be taken to protect their rights, and the rights of their children. Welty Law Office’s services for LGBTQ+ couples include:
Names are powerful. If you are a transgender person, you may have spent years, even decades, with a name that didn’t fit who you were. Legally changing your name is an act of strength and empowerment. At Welty Law Office, we are honored to help our transgender clients change their legal name and gender marker on legal documents to match their true identity. There is no charge for this service.
Under Tennessee law, a man is legally presumed to be the father of a child to whom his wife gave birth during their marriage. Tennessee Code Annotated § 1-3-104(b) states that, “Words importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Therefore, the wife of a woman who gives birth during their marriage should be legally presumed to be the child’s legal parent.
However, there are many children of same-sex parents who fall outside of that protection, often because they were born before their parents could legally marry. Welty Law Office represents same-sex couples in second-parent adoption, which establishes a non-biological parent as the legal parent of their spouse or partner’s biological child. Second-parent adoption creates legal rights between the adoptive parent and child, such as the right to seek custody, the obligation to provide child support, and the ability to inherit from one another under the law.
Equitable distribution of property in a Tennessee divorce means that spouses fairly divide property that either of them acquired during the marriage. This division is usually, but not always, about equal. Tennessee laws regarding equitable distribution often have an unfair effect on divorcing same-sex couples. Because same-sex couples only recently became eligible to marry, many couples lived together and acquired property together for years before marriage.
This property acquired before a marriage ordinarily would not be divided in a divorce, but would belong to the partner who acquired it or in whose name it was titled. Similarly, one of the factors used to determine alimony in Tennessee is the length of the marriage, which can disadvantage the lower-earning spouse in a same-sex marriage. Welty Law Office helps clients in a same-sex marriage ensure that the division of property and alimony award in their divorce are truly equitable.
Often, the unique challenges that can arise in LGBTQ+ family law matters are not apparent until a dispute arises between spouses, partners, or co-parents. It is important to be proactive in identifying potential legal issues and taking steps to protect your rights as an individual and as a family. We invite you to contact Welty Law Office to schedule a consultation to discuss your Tennessee family law needs.