Gay Marriage: The Church vs. State Argument

Gay marriage is one of the most controversial and polarizing issues of the modern era. The increasingly Christian-influenced Republican Party has made gay marriage one of its primary talking points, prompting the Democratic Party to come back at them by re-iterating the importance of the separation of church and state. But in a world where the Republican Party is controlled by the fringe Tea Party, making religion a matter of politics, it becomes difficult to extract one from the other in the modern political arena.

THE TEA PARTY

Beginning as a protest against Obama’s Affordable Care Act and continuing with John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in his 2008 presidential campaign, the Tea Party has grown in popularity and size, making it an unofficial third party within the Republican Party itself. Lacking a primary agenda, it is often dominated by fear tactics and shock words, appealing to a base that is loyal and predominantly Christian. The group is driven by Christian principles such as a fetus’ right to life, restricted birth control, and strictly heterosexual marriage. The Tea Party votes keep coming in, electing representatives who live by these principles and do not have any desire to change them, either personally or politically, as a change in principle would likely end in relinquishment of their seats in Congress. Thus, the more moderate Republicans often surrender to their demands, resulting in a Republican Party that becomes more and more conservative with each passing year.

THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

One of the founding concepts on which this country was built was the freedom of religion. In Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, he writes that legislators should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” This concept was incorporated into the U.S. Constitution as the First Amendment, but legislators have historically had a difficult time enforcing it. Because the United States is an unusually religious country for a “first-world” nation, religious beliefs have been a defining force behind many important government decisions. From legislation on abortions to birth control and gay marriage, the First Amendment of the Constitution has been rendered close to obsolete due to the religious convictions of the general population. Thus, politicians are inclined to gloss over the separation of church and state to fight for the religious agenda of their constituents, in an effort to keep their seats in Congress.

THE NOVELTY OF GAY MARRIAGE

Politicians argue that gay marriage is simply a product of modern Western society, a fluke of our societal structure that allows two men or two women to behave as heterosexuals have done since the beginning of civilization. Drawing on this concept, politicians have constructed an argument that says that the purpose of marriage is to procreate and continue the human race. However, countering that argument are studies that have shown an evolutionary reason for homosexuality. The person who does not have children of his/her own propagates the idea of “alloparenting,” that is, creating a buffer and means support to parents, which in turn increases survival rates for infants. Hence, the continuance of homosexuality may indeed be a contributing factor in the survival of the human race after all.

The issue of gay marriage remains a hot topic. But legally, the government should be concerned not with morality but with equal treatment of its citizens. According to the Constitution, the issue of morality is to be left to the church.

Robbie Edison writes on marriage, divorce law, cohabitation, family law, property law and other associated topics. Robbie understands the importance of locating a qualified attorney when going through a divorce; he encourages Houston residents to contact Chernoff Law, Houston Divorce Attorneys with a solid track record.

Can Cohabitating Partners Be Considered Legal Parents?

Although it has been traditionally frowned upon in many circles, cohabitation has become increasingly common in the Western world. In the United States, it is now considered completely normal to be unmarried yet live with a romantic partner. Most people don’t consider it a long-term alternative to marriage since most cohabiting partners either split up or marry within a couple of years, but most couples find themselves living together at some point during their relationship. Naturally, this leads to some questionable legal issues, particularly when these unmarried couples have children together.

Traditionally, two people would be legally married before they have children, and the legality of their status as parents would never be called into question. Today, 22 percent of children are born to unwed couples, and that number is on the rise. The Office for National Statistics in Great Britain has even predicted that most children will be born out of wedlock by 2016. Considering these alarming numbers, it’s important to take a look at the legality of cohabiting partners as legal parents.

Unmarried Biological Parents as Legal Guardians

In the United States, a child born to an unmarried couple is the legal responsibility of both parents. However, in the case of cohabiting partners, a paternity test is required to determine the rights and responsibilities of the father. In other words, cohabiting partners can legally be parents, but they still don’t have the same legal responsibilities as married couples. For example, when a married couple gets a divorce, child custody must be divided in a specific way, and both the mother and the father are able to contest their rights in court. When cohabiting couples decide to split up, the father has no legal financial responsibilities when it comes to raising the children.

When There is No Biological Relation to the Children

The laws regarding cohabiting partners with children usually only apply to biological children. In many cases, two partners ends up caring for children that are biologically related to only one of them. In these situations, the unrelated adult usually has no parental rights, but they can still become the legal guardian of their partner’s children through adoption or if the non-custodial parent is either deceased or deemed unfit or guilty of abandonment in a court of law.

The process of gaining custody of an unrelated child is cumbersome, but it can be very important. If something were to happen to the biological parent, the partner may want to take the time to go through the adoption process and become the legal guardian of the couple’s children. Without going through the adoption process, the biological parent maintains custody of the children, should the couple become separated.

One thing that becomes clear when dealing with the issues of unmarried couples raising children is that while cohabitation may appear to be similar to marriage, it is obviously not the same. Unmarried partners do not have the same level of commitment to each other or their children, even when they live together. They may legally be parents, but that legality only lasts for as long as they are together.

Kyle Brand is a freelance legal blogger and writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Kyle recommends that those who need assistance with asbestos litigation visit Shrader Law.

Is Divorce Contagious?

While most people don’t begin a marriage expecting to divorce, separation can happen to anyone. People in certain social groups find themselves particularly at-risk for divorce if a friend or relative has gotten divorced. In some close social groups, divorce is actually contagious. After seeing a close friend divorce, some people start to question their own marriage, and many decide they are unhappy with it and would like to get out. According to a new study by Brown University, you are 75% more likely to separate from your spouse if you watch someone close to you go through a divorce.

Social Contagion

So what happens to people to make them want to get divorced after a friend does? Sociologists refer to it as the “social contagion”. This spread of information through a social group stirs up ideas and emotions in many people. Friends of friends can even be impacted by a divorce. The social link found with family members and friends demonstrates for researchers how friends in a person’s social circle can directly impact one’s health and behavior. Family members and friends often find themselves taking sides in a divorce, or they can be stuck in the middle of fighting parents and friends. This can add stress to their life, which can in turn affect their own marriage.

Divorce Aftermath

Once a person gets a divorce, they often end up marrying another person who has also been divorced. This is common for people who jump into a new relationship soon after allowing their marriage to end. People who divorce often find that their social circle shrinks significantly after their marriage ends. This happens when mutual friends “choose sides,” and pick only one person from the marriage to associate with. Some married people view a newly divorced person as a social threat and worry about marital poaching.

Preventing Divorce

People with a strong social network are less likely to divorce. If you have active conversations with your friends, and you focus on building strong, supportive friendships, you can reduce your likelihood of divorce. Marital stresses are different for each couple, which is why it is important to continue working on open communication throughout a marriage. Marriage is not easy work: it requires dedication, sacrifice, and an enduring desire to make the other person happy.

Many couples seek out marital counseling to help their marriage. Counseling services can be tremendously helpful for couples that need to find a way to communicate with each other. If you are in a relationship where the grass looks greener on the other side, marital counseling can be beneficial. A therapist can help you personally understand the emotions you are experiencing, and how a decision like divorce can impact you personally, as well as the people in your social circle.

Adult children in healthy, happy marriages, can have their entire world turned upside down when they learn their parents are divorcing. It can cause them to question their own relationship and their personal happiness. Taken too far, these questions can cause a person to question their own marriage, and wonder if divorce is right for them.

Derek Clifford writes on marriage, weddings, wedding gowns, tuxedos, prom attire and other topics; to view a great selection of bridal gowns readers are encouraged to visit Terry Costa.

Tips on How to Cope with Divorce

People often say that the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, and a divorce are the three most stressful things a person can go through. Though these challenges are never enjoyable, there are ways to cope. This is particularly true when it comes to divorce; it may be the end of something, but it may be the beginning of something else.

The Incidence of Divorce in the United States

It is a common belief that one in two marriages will end in divorce. The actual statistics give some credence to this conception: per the American Psychological Association, approximately 40 to 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce; the number is higher for subsequent marriages.

There are a number of factors that lead to divorce, including the age of the couple when wed and their level of education.

The Future of Divorce

While the high rate of divorce may seem alarming, it doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon. As reported by the Huffington Post, a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 63 percent of divorce attorneys have seen an increase in prenuptial agreements over the past three years. This can be viewed simply as people proactively protecting their finances, but it can also be ominously viewed as people losing more faith in the sanctity of marriage.

Coping With Divorce

For people who are going through divorce, there are steps that can be taken to help with coping. These include:

Joining a Support Group: The old adage “misery loves company” is true in many situations. But it’s not because people inherently want bad things to happen to others; instead, people inherently want to know that bad things don’t happen to only them. A support group can show you that there are others going through the same situation.

According to Web MD, support groups can go a long way toward helping you heal. They give people a chance to share their feelings, learn from others, and meet people with whom they share commonalities.

Look at it as a New Beginning: Anyone who sees themselves wrapped up in or defined by an ex-spouse will have a difficult time moving on. Instead, looking at divorce as a new beginning and a chance to redefine yourself can help the road seem a little shorter and the load a little lighter.

You may do this by finding a new hobby, exploring a long-dormant interest, redecorating your home, getting a makeover, starting a book club, or doing something you’d never imagined before, such as visiting Europe or taking a singles cruise.

Help Your Children: Divorce can be especially hard for children; they often believe they are to blame. If you have children, remember to help them cope as you cope. You can do this by being understanding of their regressive or rebellious behavior, never asking them to take sides, and never using them as a way to get underneath the skin of your ex-spouse.

Be Open to New Possibilities: Divorce has a way of leaving you sour on the idea of marriage. This is perfectly natural. But keeping the sour taste in your mouth for too long might leave you missing out on something sweet. It’s always a good idea to keep at least part of yourself open to new possibilities; you just never know when something good might come along.

Randall Marbury, a former divorce attorney, is currently a freelance blogger and writer who contributes material on family law issues such as divorce, child custody, mediation and so forth.

A Brief Introduction to Common-Law Marriage

(US family law and generally) Marriage has historically been a respected institution espoused by almost every society. Usually, marriage constitutes a legal and sometimes religious mandate between licensed officials to wed a couple, such that the union is recognized by the government and, in some circumstances, a religious entity. You can choose to marry under the auspices of a religious leader or go to your city hall, after obtaining a marriage license.

However, there are many instances in which a couple might choose to carry on all the activities of a married couple without having gone through the legal or religious formalities. This is known as a common-law marriage, and it has its origins in England and early America when priests and licensed marriage officials were few and far between. Getting to an official to be married proved a hardship or outright impossible for many couples, so the law set aside certain provisions that ratified a union between man and woman that ensured they held the same benefits and legal recognition as the more formal marriages.

Present Day Requirements and Acceptance of Common-Law Marriages

It is important to note that not all states recognize common-law marriages, although those that don’t will often respect the validity of a common-law marriage formed in another, accepting state should the couple move to a non-accepting state. The states that do explicitly allow common-law marriages are Colorado, Alabama, Utah, Rhode Island, Texas, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, the District of Columbia, Iowa, and Kansas. There are a handful of other states that allow common-law marriages with varying stipulations.

• Pennsylvania allows you and a spouse to have a common-law marriage if you’ve met all requirements before the first day of the year 2005; if you’ve cohabitated for this purpose on any date afterward, your relationship is not eligible and you need to get married formally.

• New Hampshire allows common-law marriages for purposes of inheriting an estate or will. Thus, if you or your significant other passes away and you weren’t married formally but adhered to the stipulations of the common-law variety, then you or your spouse are privy to the estate/will. In states where common-law marriages are not for inheritance purposes, then you do not automatically have any claim on inheritance-the family of the deceased receives primary consideration in the absence of a will.

• The only common-law marriages ratified by Ohio are the ones created before October 1991. After this date, mutual consent to live as husband and wife is not formally recognized as a marriage by the state and legal ramifications do not apply.

• Georgia only recognizes common-law marriages formed before January 1997.

• Idaho recognizes common-law marriages created before January 1996.

How is Divorce Handled in a Common-Law Marriage?

Somewhat asymmetrically, just because you don’t need a formal ceremony for cohabitation in a common-law marriage doesn’t mean you don’t need one for divorce. In fact, every state that accepts the common-law option requires you to undergo formal divorce proceedings, just like any traditionally married couple. All the issues that are normally dealt with in divorce proceedings must be handled by family court-alimony, child support, estate division, etc. It is important to realize that your rights to property division are not the same as in a traditional, formal legal marriage, and these vary from state to state.

About the author

Thomas Platt is a freelance writer who specializes in legal topics such as Medical Equipment Fraud, Medical Malpractice, Tax Fraud, Criminal Defense, Family Law and other topics as well.

Are Pre-Nuptial Agreements Ironclad?

(US family law and generally) Every year nearly 2.3 million Americans get married, with nearly half of them culminating in divorce. This statistics concerning national divorce rates reveal that the likelihood of a breakup in marriages exceeds an incredible 50 percent. So it is not at all surprising that the extensive use of prenuptial agreements is ever on the rise.

Nature of a Prenuptial Agreement

Any prenuptial agreement is drawn up either before or while contemplating marriage. Such an agreement essentially divulges the assets as well as debts of both parties, and spells out just what happens to these either upon the death of a partner or if the divorce of the parties. When people are engaged to be married, their relationship becomes fiduciary in nature, and as such both partners have a duty to reveal assets and income. If they fail in this, the prenuptial agreement becomes null and void.

A Peep into History

Although it is a fairly common practice these days, courts previously subscribed to the idea that it negates public policy to afford a monetary settlement if a marriage ends up in either a separation or divorce. The principal reason for this factor was that an agreement to this effect would be undermining the conjugal relationship in advance and as such can encourage marital breakups.

Full Financial Disclosure

Total fiscal disclosure is indispensable. It must be kept in mind that requesting a prenuptial agreement can be interpreted by your future spouse as you having no trust in them. If you are being deceitful about your finances, you are only giving them plenty of ammunition to attack you. The basis of a legitimate premarital agreement is the need for disclosure. Without ample disclosure it is not easy to draft a binding contract, particularly if material facts are concealed. Thus, the way to guarantee the legality of the prenuptial agreement is to exchange prevailing net worth statements, which requires detailing assets as well as liabilities. Prenuptial agreements are in effect a sincere effort to decide issues such as distribution of wealth, division of property, support, etc. in the event of the demise of either of the spouses or the breakdown of the marriage that ends in separation or divorce.

Statute of Frauds

The Statute of Frauds requires that an agreement entered into in consideration of either marriage or a pledge to marry must be in writing and duly signed by both spouses.

Consideration

Consideration is an indispensable factor of an agreement. In case sufficient consideration is lacking, an agreement becomes invalid. In the marital sphere, the reciprocal promises to enter into wedlock serve as sufficient consideration.

Fairness

Any premarital agreement deemed unfair cannot be enforced if it is considered “unconscionable.” Courts tend to investigate an agreement that favors one spouse or the other in a lopsided manner on its own merits or demerits. Additionally, persons and conditions change, so that a contract that might seem fair at first becomes less so with the passage of time. Unconscionability is put to the test based on when the prenuptial agreement is enforced, not when it was signed, since enforcing an out-of-date agreement blindly can end in unforeseen financial hardship for the affected spouse.

Independent Counsel

To have common counsel in the drafting and reviewing of the proposed prenuptial agreement can be problematic. To safeguard the interests of either party, both parties should have separate counsel.

Duress

The last major point concerning the execution of the agreement is that it should be accomplished without duress. Sometimes the agreement is entered into on the eve of marriage, or even on the day of the wedding itself. Actually, a reasonable amount of time should pass after the signing of the agreement and the important day.

Trigger Clause

A good divorce lawyer will advise you to add a “triggering event” to the agreement that would kick start divorce proceedings automatically, while distinguishing between separate and marital property as of that date. This can come in handy, mainly if your prenuptial agreement is based on offering your partner a portion of your estate at a time when you are looking forward to some future earnings, inheritance, etc.

As the circumstances of every individual are unique, prenuptial agreements as a rule do not undergo standardization. Instead, they are specially drawn up to suit the specific requirements of both parties. Besides, such agreements do not necessarily remain ironclad unless they are properly structured.

About the author

Jonathan Ryerson is a freelance legal writer who focuses on Domestic Violence, Criminal Defense, Family Law, Mediation, DUI Defense and other topics.

Abortion and the Law

There are no uniform codes or model acts that govern abortion law, and each state is free to create laws that govern abortion within its own borders. With respect to Supreme Court rulings and federal legislation, there remains wide diversity among states regarding the interpretation and implementation of abortion rights and restrictions.

Landmark Cases

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973, any state was free to make laws restricting or banning abortion. However, the Supreme Court ruled that banning abortion was unconstitutional, and a woman’s right to privacy, derived from the Fourteenth Amendment, included the right to have an abortion. Nevertheless, what the court did not say also impacted the state’s rights in a way that caused disunity from state to state. The Court did not say that a woman had a right to an abortion at any point in her pregnancy for any reason. Indeed, the Court acknowledged and affirmed that a state had the right to restrict abortions when fetal viability had been reached. An additional Supreme Court ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) prohibits a state from placing an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion.

Federal Legislation

Two federal laws additionally impact abortion rights:

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act was signed into law by George W. Bush in 2003. This procedure involves the partial birth and killing of a fetus before completing full delivery.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act also signed into law by President Bush in2004 recognizes the fetus as an “unborn child.” Many states have also adopted the concept of the “unborn child” as victims of violence and murder. Twenty-seven states define “unborn child” as a child at all stages of prenatal development. Nine additional states define “unborn child” using various standards.

Disunity among States

Language and definitions are frequently an issue when legislation is enacted or when laws are challenged in court. Judicial rulings, such as Roe v. Wade and other case law determining constitutionality and addressing issues such as “State’s rights”,  “undue burden” and “right to privacy” are complex and less than definitive in many cases. This intrinsic problem with language and interpretation of intent among other things lead to variations among state laws.

In matters of human life and personhood, the Supreme Court has declined to identify when life begins. Although there is a standard of viability, the care of preterm babies has continued to improve the viability. State laws that define viability will continue to face challenges. Furthermore, some states have tried to pass “personhood” legislation to give rights to unborn babies.

Laws that strictly regulate physicians and abortion providers, while not specifically addressing abortion, have been enacted in some states to limit the availability of abortions. For states wishing to limit abortion, this has become one method of doing so. These regulations and restrictions continue to face legal opposition from pro-choice advocates who often use the “undue burden” doctrine as a challenge.

All abortions are not necessarily legal. Various state laws have articles within their abortion statutes that define illegal abortion. Some are very broad, stating that any abortion that does not comply with the statutory requirements of legal abortion is illegal. West Virginia law has a more restrictive definition included in its criminal code stating that any abortion procedure other than that to save the life of the mother or child is illegal and is a felony.

Although the Supreme Court restricted states from banning abortion, there is no federal law that prohibits states from making law to further regulate abortion. States will continue to implement laws to regulate abortion according to the wishes of their citizens through the state legislative process.

Byline

Jonathan Sheridan is a freelance writer focusing on legal topics such as Family Law, Sexual Abuse of Children, DUI & Criminal Defense, Intellectual Property and other areas.

Domestic Emotional Abuse is Just as Serious as Physical Abuse

For years the term “domestic violence” only brought to mind frightening physical abuse. More recently, the phrase has begun to mean many different forms of abuse ranging from physical to psychological. Emotional abuse is a very real and terrifying part of relationships for many people no matter their gender. There are various types of emotional abuse that are commonly seen by mental health professionals who work with victims of domestic violence. Those who have never experienced this type of abuse may be shocked to hear that the effects of psychological and emotional violence are as serious, if not more severe, than those of physical violence.

Rejection

The first type of commonly acknowledged emotional abuse is that of rejection. Rejection involves letting a person know that they are unwanted in a variety of different ways. By name-calling, yelling, swearing, demeaning, and verbally humiliating a person, the abuser is telling the victim that he or she is worthless and often the cause of problems that are truly out of the victim’s control. When this type of abuse is used against children, it can also include refusal to hold or nurture through growth and development.

Terrorizing

Another type of emotional abuse that often causes severe trauma is terrorizing. Yelling, threatening, teasing, and over-the-top punishment for the sake of intimidation are all considered acts of domestic terrorism. Abusers threaten their victims with abandonment or harm and often berate them in front of other family members and friends. Abusers may also terrorize by forcing their victims to watch acts that are inhumane in nature. Terrorizing can also involve threatening to harm a beloved object, pet, or close acquaintance.

Ignoring

The act of ignoring is common in emotionally abusive situations. In adult victims this treatment brings with it feelings of severe isolation due to the emotional unavailability of the abuser. When adults abuse children by ignoring, they may deny necessary medical or dental care, intentionally fail to pay attention to or discuss a child’s interests, or behave as though the child is not a member of the family. Ignoring also may involve a general lack of attention to nurturing children in regard to their everyday needs such as food, drink, clean clothes, school work, and other important constants that are necessary for children. Abusers who ignore are physically present but meticulously fail to recognize that their victim exists.

Emotional abuse is a dangerous and insidious element. Though the psychological effects are the same, if not worse, than physical abuse, there are no physical marks that can provide those close to the victims with the knowledge that abuse is present in a relationship. Many victims, especially children, are silent about their experiences in an emotionally abusive setting because they either fear the consequences of “tattling” on their abuser, or they have been brainwashed to think that the terrible things said and done to them are deserved.

Another scary aspect of emotional violence is that it doesn’t have to be over-the-top to be considered abusive. Emotional abuse is classified as anything that is said or done to intentionally hurt another person’s feelings. It could be as simple as insulting how a person looks. In situations where the abuse is more grotesque, it can be as severe as “gaslighting” a person, which means making them feel as though they are crazy and unstable through lies and manipulation.

Shaming, undermining the confidence of another, or destroying a person’s ability to grow, trust, and have viable levels of self-esteem are all forms of emotional violence. Like physical abuse, this type of treatment destroys the victim’s ability to trust people in any capacity of a relationship until proper treatment is received. In many cases, the effects of emotional abuse burn deeper than those of physical violence, as the abuse is often more frequent. Emotional violence destroys the person who is being abused by deeply damaging them to the core of their spirit.

About the author

Jim Burns is a freelance writer who focuses on legal issues such as Medical Malpractice, Insurance Fraud, Securities Litigation, Financial Regulation, Family Law and other important topics.

Strategies for Reducing Domestic Violence

Fighting domestic violence is never easy, particularly when there is so little that can be done to prevent a crime from happening. While authorities can do their best to limit the damage and ensure the actions do not recur, how do they go about stopping something that has not yet happened? The key to reducing domestic violence crimes is to ensure that offenders know that there are serious consequences for their actions. Instead of labelling domestic violence crimes as “domestic matters,” it is time for them to be treated the same way as any assault or violent attack. Only then will the rate of domestic violence crimes diminish.

Pressing Charges

In many cases, spouses or partners do not file charges in domestic violence cases. This trend needs to change because it gives abusers the self confidence that their actions have no consequences. Once the police are called and a domestic violence incident is confirmed, charging the offender must be mandatory. Even if a spouse or partner is refusing to press charges, the police must act on their own accord. Once a generation of people begins to realize that any domestic violence incident equals mandatory jail time, they will alter their behavior.

Responding Sooner

Those who request it should be provided with a security system that allows them to contact the authorities discreetly if a domestic violence crime is taking place, or if they worry that one is imminent. An electronic button can allow a potential victim to alert law enforcement of a domestic violence case. This allows the police to arrive at the home sooner, which ensures that minimum damage occurs.

Communities Must Help

Domestic violence cannot be prevented by the police alone. Everyone needs to join in the effort to help rid the country of this epidemic. When a neighbor hears unusual shouting or commotion near their residence, they should contact the police immediately. When the police arrive, they must be thorough in their examination of the scene. Too many officers respond to a domestic violence complaint and leave the home without making sure everything is okay. They will talk to the husband/boyfriend, who informs them that nothing is wrong, and leave. Police should enter the home, see what is going on, make sure everyone in the house is okay, and then leave.

Provide Victims with Additional Protection

The worst domestic violence cases are those that involve couples who have a history of multiple incidents. A spouse or child is beaten once, and a case is filed, yet they return to the same living environment. Chances are that abuse will take place again. In these instances, the law must do everything possible to provide the victim with additional protection. Not only will this discourage future incidents, but it gives the victim an added sense of security.

Domestic violence will never go away altogether, and it is something that needs to be battled every day. Law enforcement, communities and individual families need to do their part to ensure that people feel safe inside their homes. Changing a culture is never easy, but this is one of the cases where something has to be done as soon as possible.

About the author

Jeremiah Stone is a freelancer who focuses on legal subjects such as Personal Injury, Civil Procedure, Corporate Law, Constitutional Law, Intellectual Property and others as well.

Are Child Custody Laws Biased Against Fathers in Washington State

Changes in child custody law reflect the changes in American families that have taken place over the last several generations. Earlier eras assigned child care duties to the mother and tasked the father with supporting the family’s economic needs. While this traditional structure still prevails in some families, many homes today see both parents working outside the home and sharing child care responsibilities. There are also families today in which the father takes care of the children while the mother serves as the breadwinner.

While the structure of families has evolved greatly in modern times, child custody laws in some states have failed to keep pace. Some fathers trying to win custody of their children may be confronted with archaic statutes that preference maternal rights and leave fathers wondering if child custody laws are biased against them.

Washington Child Custody Laws Are Gender Neutral

Child custody statutes vary by state. While a handful of states retain an explicit preference for awarding primary custody to the mother, the state of Washington has adopted a gender-neutral standard. In Washington State, as well as many other states across the country, the prevailing factor in child custody cases is what outcome is in the best interest of the child. While there is no guarantee that a father won’t encounter a biased judge, the laws in Washington regarding child custody make no reference to gender. In fact, in Washington divorce cases, state statutes encourage parents and judges to agree to joint custody whenever possible.

In Washington State, joint custody may be awarded if the following minimum conditions are met: each parent is active in making decisions for the child, the proximity of the parents allows a joint custody arrangement to be feasible, and the parents are willing or able to work together to serve the child’s best interests.

If one parent is awarded sole custody, the non-custodial parent will usually be awarded visitation rights. Visitation rights are granted in almost all circumstances, except in cases of abuse or abandonment. Child support in Washington may be ordered of either parent, regardless of gender.

Custody Cases in Washington State Require a Parenting Plan

Washington law requires parents who are fighting a custody battle to submit, and eventually agree to, a parenting plan. Each parent may draw up their own plan and then negotiate a final agreement in front of a judge or mediator. Alternatively, both parents may agree on a joint parenting plan by themselves, and then present it to a judge for approval.

Parenting plans will differ for each family, and joint custody is often different from equal custody. Although Washington law does not preference maternal rights, it does allow that the best interest of the child may require a majority of his or her time to be spent with one parent. While gender is not a factor is assigning these responsibilities, the courts will take into account each parent’s financial status, work schedule, proximity to the child, the existing relationship between the child and each parent, and the parents themselves.

Fathers Often do not Fight for Child Custody

Statistics demonstrate that nationwide, mothers are granted sole custody more often than fathers. These statistics do not necessarily represent a legal bias against fathers; the fact is that many fathers do not ask for sole or joint custody, but cede these rights without contest. In Washington State, there is no legal reason why a father seeking to protect the best interests of his children should not get a fair hearing.

About the author

Kevin Danielson is a freelance writer who concentrates on a variety of legal topics such as Personal Injury, Brain Injuries, Family Law, Intellectual Property and others as well.