Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.



December 1, 2016

"How Kinky and Non-Traditional Parents are Punished by Family Courts"


Diana Adams (center), longtime polyactivist and head of a law practice for nontraditional families, posts,

"I did an interview with Vice on how kinky, poly, trans and other nontraditional parents face child custody challenges in Family Courts based on subjective standards that give tremendous leeway to a judge's hidden bias. I got to give my caution about Fetlife profiles and similar online presence if you may have a child custody conflict with your child's other parent."

The story just came out. Plan ahead.


How Kinky and Non-Traditional Parents are Punished by Family Courts

By Neil McArthur

American family courts — a series of state courts that specifically deal in family law, from child custody cases to divorce proceedings — are a distinctly unsung part of our judicial system. They are rarely discussed in the media and largely absent from the Hollywood spotlight; as a result, few people understand how they work.

But if you are a parent involved in a case subject to their rule, you could easily find yourself at the mercy of a judge with broad power to decide how much, if at all, you get to see your children. Family courts lack juries, so such decisions are delivered from the pen of a sole person. And the system does not treat everyone equally. According to numerous legal practitioners and scholars I spoke to, a widespread bias exists within the system against parents whose views or lifestyles fall outside the American norm, especially sexually.

..."I can predict the likelihood of my success by zip code," said Diana Adams, a family lawyer from New York who has spent the last decade working with clients who are LGBTQ, polyamorous, kinky, or otherwise outside the mainstream. Because family court judges are elected by direct vote in many states, their tolerance of alternative lifestyles tends to correlate with that of the surrounding area. She represents clients in both New York City and more conservative areas of upstate New York, and says that the weight of a parent's sex life upon a judge's decision varies wildly from judge to judge, depending on their political views. She also provides advice to clients out of state, and has noticed a pattern: For clients like hers, Southern and rural areas are unforgiving places for cases to come before family court judges.

When the Supreme Court declared in Lawrence v. Texas that state laws against homosexuality were unconstitutional, it also ruled that states cannot establish laws based purely on the moral disapproval of lawmakers. But as legal scholars have noted, those who come before family courts lack the constitutional protections that apply to criminal cases, in which the discretion of an individual judge is limited and juries are involved.

Though most states now prohibit judges from using sexual orientation as a factor in family court rulings, judges are still free to cite a parent's polyamorous or kinky proclivities — or even a willingness to have non-marital sex — as an explicit reason for handing down rulings. In any case, family court judges are often not explicit about the exact factors that lead to their rulings. Adams recounted one case in which a family court removed a child from the custody of a transgender client, ostensibly because her client's cat was sick the day a child services worker visited and vomit was seen on the floor. But Adams said that "a white cisgender professional mother like me would never lose custody of her child because a sick cat made a mess."...

...Though experts said the attitudes of family court judges are slowly improving from decades past, non-traditional parents increasingly face other types of challenges; Andrew Gilden, a professor at the Willamette University College of Law, worries that people are creating detailed trails of evidence to be used against them in family courts on their phones and personal computers. Adams's experience confirms that fear: She said she's seen many internet dating and Fetlife (a kink-focused social network) profiles introduced in court. ...

Neil McArthur is the director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at University of Manitoba, where his work focuses on sexual ethics and the philosophy of sexuality.


Read the whole article (November 30, 2016).

Bottom line: If there's a chance that a hostile ex or family member might ever go after you or your kids, run a model home and keep your sex life off your phone and the internet.

● Further tips from the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund: Do's and Don't's to Avoid Custody Challenges. So often, when a poly parent gets into a custody case, there's some stupid-in-retrospect thing that, while irrelevant to whether they're a good parent, gives free distraction-ammunition to the other side.

● From the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF):

    – Child Custody & Divorce: Considerations for Alternative Lifestyles
    – Guidelines for Custody Cases
    – A guide to what to do if someone calls Child Protective Services on you

--------------------------------------


P. S.  Diana was also quoted today about triad finances, in a Bloomberg Businessweek story How Couples Do Money. At the end is a section titled "How Throuples Do Money":


Not every relationship involves only two people. Diana Adams runs a law firm in New York that specializes in legal and financial planning for nontraditional families, including three-person “throuples,” or “triad” relationships.

Businessweek: This field seems pretty specialized. How new is it?

Adams: Very. We saw a need—particularly in the community of people who are polyamorous and people who are doing platonic co-parenting, such as a gay male couple co-parenting with a single female friend. They’ve been around since the 1970s, but in the last 10 years we’ve seen their numbers skyrocket.

...BW: When a throuple comes to you, what are the most pressing financial issues?

A: If [a] primary original couple was married, they will already have many legal privileges. We talk about how the new partner may not have access to health insurance or immigration benefits, tax benefits. Some people are interested in the creation of an LLC to create the relationship under a corporate structure that would allow people to share property. Sometimes that original couple will decide to get a divorce so that they won’t have that privileged status over the third person.

BW: What about divorce? For example, if three parties own a house in equal shares, can two partners force a sale?

A: That issue definitely does come up. We try to create an agreement in the very beginning so that we won’t have a forced sale. Especially with a three-person dynamic, it can end up in massive litigation because the courts don’t know what to do with it. The legal system tends to be about 20 years behind.


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