Gay and Lesbian Family Law

Effective January 1, 2008, New Hampshire recognized the civil union of same-sex couples. On January 1, 2010, New Hampshire amended the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples and repealed the civil union law. Individuals who entered into civil unions are now, by operation of law, considered married.

“Federal law does not recognize New Hampshire same-sex marriages. This limitation must be taken into account when making health care, retirement and tax decisions.”

So what does this mean in practical terms? Three important changes are highlighted below.

Adoption and Parenting for Gay and Lesbian Couples

Same-sex spouses can jointly adopt a child or adopt each other’s children (assuming parental rights of other biological parent have been terminated).  Further, same-sex spouses are presumed by law to be the parents of any child born during the marriage.

In either circumstance, the role of legal “parent” brings with it the right of care, custody and control of the child. Same sex spouses can make joint medical, educational and financial decisions for the child.

Same-sex spouses are both required to provide financial support to the child.

Divorce in Gay and Lesbian Marriages

Same-sex marriages are dissolved by New Hampshire’s divorce laws.

All property, whether individually or jointly owned, becomes part of the marital estate and is equitably divided. Alimony may be awarded on the basis of need and ability to pay. Child custody and visitation are determined by the best interests of the child. Child support can be awarded.

While brevity prevents a comprehensive list of the issues addressed in the divorce decree, it is obvious that the application of divorce principles to same-sex relationships has far-reaching consequences for the parties and their children.

Estate Planning Considerations for Gay and Lesbian Couples

Of particular note to gay and lesbian couples should be how their status as a married couple affects estate planning.

Because same-sex spouses are considered married, children of the marriage are now treated no differently than natural born children. These changes in status bring with them specific legal rights which should be considered when estate planning is undertaken.

Contact us and learn why many of our clients consider us to be the best gay & lesbian family lawyers in New Hampshire.