Drexel Study Shows LGBT Parents Still Face Bias in Child Custody Disputes

Despite a plethora of studies showing that gay moms and dads are just as effective at parenting as their heterosexual counterparts, courts are not considering that in child custody dispute cases. That comes from a new study out of Drexel University that’s led by Emily Haney-Caron, and Kirk Heilbrun, PhD. More from a press release sent out this week:

For a gay or lesbian individual, coming out as gay at the end of a heterosexual partnership can mean that he or she could be denied custody of the children from that partnership or face restrictions on visitation. For same-sex couples with children, the end of their relationship can mean difficulties in establishing parental rights for both parents when one partner is not recognized as a legal parent by the state and by the court, and therefore is not granted custody or visitation.

The Drexel researchers recommend that legislators and other policymakers take into account the research on gay parenting. They believe that this research should be used to help guide policy, which would have the potential to assist judges in complex decisions regarding custody and parental rights – and could help ensure that such legal decisions genuinely reflect the best interest of the child.

Haney-Caron and Heilbrun laid out a series of recommendations for judges, legislators, and psychologists:

  • For psychologists conducting evaluations for custody disputes involving a gay or lesbian parent, it is important to understand the relevant law and research, ensure that personal biases do not influence the evaluation or conclusions, and consider how the nature of these cases may influence both the evaluation and the information provided to the judge in the case.
  • For judges presiding over custody matters, the relevant social science research should help to inform decisions involving families with a lesbian or gay parent.
  • For legislators, research should also help to inform lawmaking in this area. Examples might include legislation restricting judges from considering sexual orientation in child custody disputes, or legislation making it easier for same-sex couples to establish legal bonds with their children.

“By allowing the research to influence legal decision-making in this area, our society can help ensure that the best interest of the children whose custody is at issue will be served,” says Haney-Caron.

To read more about the study, and to learn about the researchers, go here.