You may forge a relationship with the child of your same-sex spouse or partner through the time you spend with the child and the care that you provide. However, we at the law office of Schipani & Norman caution you that if you want the relationship between you and the child to continue after a split, you need to ensure that you have a legal relationship with him or her. Otherwise, a Florida court may not recognize your parental rights after a divorce or separation.

A legal relationship exists between parents and their biological children and between children and their adoptive parents. If you and your spouse or partner adopted a child together during your relationship, you have a legal relationship with the child. If you adopt a biological child your spouse or partner has from a prior relationship and/or assisted reproduction, that secures your parental rights as well.

However, a co-parenting agreement signed prior to the child’s birth is not sufficient to establish your parental rights. According to WLRN, an appeals court recently rejected a co-parenting agreement between a non-married same-sex couple, denying time-sharing and parental responsibility to the nonbiological parent.

The two women were in a relationship at the time of the child’s conception via intrauterine insemination. Prior to the child’s birth in 2014, the two women signed a co-parenting agreement expressing an intention to share parental responsibility equally and jointly. However, a judge ruled that the agreement was not enforceable. Therefore, the court only recognizes the parental rights of the biological mother.

Even if you have no intention of splitting up from your spouse or partner, this case illustrates the importance of ensuring that you have a legal relationship with your partner’s children in case you need to assert your parental rights later. More information about child custody issues in same-sex divorce is available on our website.