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Family | Parenting | New Hampshire

On July 20, 2020, Governor Sununu signed into law HB 1162, which significantly increased the protections for all families, but in particular gave LGBTQ+ families increased access to parentage protections.  

What does parentage mean?

“Parentage” means that you are a legal parent of a child for all purposes. Parentage comes with a host of rights (e.g., decision-making for medical care or education, parenting time in the event of separation from your child’s other parent) as well as responsibilities (e.g., providing health insurance, providing for basic needs, payment of child support). A secure legal parent-child relationship is core to a child’s long-term stability and well-being.

Who is a legal parent?

A biological parent who has a relationship with their child is a legal parent. An adoptive parent is similarly a legal parent. Even without a biological or adoptive connection, certain individuals are presumed to be legal parents by law. For instance, a spouse is presumed to be a parent if he/she is married to the child’s mother.

Similarly, parentage is presumed when a person “receives the child into [their] home and openly holds out the child as [their] child.” In a groundbreaking 2014 case, In Re Guardianship of Madelyn B., the New Hampshire Supreme Court established that this presumption applies equally to same-sex parents. The court also held that a lack of biological connection did not bar the application of the presumption, since the “presumptions are driven not by biolog[y]…but by the state’s interest in the welfare of the child and the integrity of the family

While this decision is an incredibly important victory for all LGBTQ+ families, having to go through a court to establish parenthood is painful and costly. 

How can New Hampshire families establish parentage?

A bill critical to ensuring expanded access to adoption, particularly for children of LGBTQ+ parents, became law July 20, 2020 when signed by Governor Sununu. Provisions in the new law, HB 1162, ensure that unmarried parents can adopt children; that LGBTQ+ parents can confirm their parentage through adoption; and that children born through assisted reproduction can have their parental relationships secured through a court judgment of parentage. A legal parent-child relationship provides a foundation for the well-being of children, and through that core relationship numerous rights and responsibilities flow, including care, financial support, and health insurance, as well as custody, parenting time, and decision making.

New Hampshire parents can establish their parentage in the following ways:

  • Giving birth (except for people acting as surrogates)
  • Being married to a person who gives birth
  • The following can obtain parentage through adoption:
    • A single unmarried person;
    • Two adults together (married or unmarried); 
    • The unmarried parent of an adoptive child;
    • In some cases, a married adult can adopt without the spouse joining in the adoption;
    • An unmarried adult with the assent of at least one of the adoptee’s parents and with the intention to share parenting responsibilities with one of the adoptee’s parents;
    • A person or persons who are parents of a child conceived via assisted reproduction as defined in RSA 168-B:1, II for the purpose of confirming the legal relationship between child and parent.
  • The following can petition a court for parentage:
    • Intended parent(s) through surrogacy
    • A person who holds the child out as their own
    • A person who has a genetic connection to a child

What is the difference between joint, second-parent (also known as co-parent) and single-parent adoptions?

A joint adoption is when both partners adopt a child together at the same time. A second-parent adoption is when one partner adopts the other partner’s child. A single-parent adoption is when a single individual adopts a child. All three of these are legal in Connecticut.

What is the advantage of doing a second parent adoption or joint adoption?

Both joint adoptions and second-parent adoptions ensure your child has two legal parents, Both married and unmarried couples can do a joint or second parent adoption. Adoption allows a non-legal parent to become a legal parent, entitled to make decisions for the child without special authorization. It also permits the adoptive parent to automatically assume custody of the child if their partner dies. Likewise, if the adoptive parent dies, the child will have the right to inherit from that parent even absent a will and may be able to collect Social Security survivor benefits.

Finally, if the couple separates, adoption ensures that both parents have the right to custody and visitation, and that any disputes will be decided based on what is in the best interests of the child rather than on who is the legal parent.

Do we need to do a second-parent adoption if we are married?

When a child is born into a marriage, New Hampshire law and the law of all states, presumes that both spouses are the parents of the child and both names are listed on the child’s birth certificate. However, this is only a presumption and can be challenged in court, so GLAD recommended that married couples do a second-parent adoption to ensure the parentage of the non-biological parent because adoption is a court judgment creating a parent-child relationship and must be respected by other states. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service who have expertise in second-parent adoptions.

Some states, like Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont, have a second way to protect the parentage of the non-biological partner by signing a voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage. This is a form that only needs to be witnessed or notarized by the parents and so saves the expense of hiring an attorney and there is no need to make a court appearance, and yet, by federal law, this document has the same force as a court judgment. Unfortunately, this option is not yet available in New Hampshire for same-sex couples.

Does New Hampshire have laws that pertain to surrogacy?

Yes. In 2014, the New Hampshire General Court passed Senate Bill SB353, An Act Relative to Surrogacy, which updated New Hampshire’s surrogacy law to reflect advances in assisted reproductive technologies. Previously, New Hampshire law allowed surrogacy only when the intended mother’s eggs were used, and only when the intended parents were married. The new Act allows all individuals to become parents via surrogacy regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

The Act also simplified the legal process for intended parents, establishing standardized criteria for gestational carrier agreements and ensuring that all parties are legally protected. It sets minimum requirements for gestational carrier agreements and recognizes that these agreements are legally enforceable contracts.

Here are the key elements of this law:

  1. It ensures that there is appropriate and clear statutory language that establishes updated and consistent standards and procedural safeguards.
  2. It facilitates the use of assisted reproductive technologies.
  3. It defines, confirms and protects the legal status and best interests of children born as a result of gestational carrier agreements.
  4. It protects the rights of the intended parents and gestational carrier.
  5. It ensures that all parties in a gestational carrier arrangement (GCA) are legally protected and enter into the GCA with the same rights, expectations and responsibilities.
  6. It standardizes the minimum requirements of gestational carrier agreements and recognizes that they are valid and enforceable legal contracts.

Does NH’s surrogacy law now apply equally to same-sex couples?

Yes. SB 353 is written in a gender-neutral way that should apply equally to same-sex couples seeking to use assisted reproduction in order to have a child together.

We are a gay male couple who want to have a child through a gestational surrogate in New Hampshire. What are we required to do prior to any medical procedures to impregnate the gestational carrier?

You must have a consultation with an attorney regarding the terms and potential legal consequences of the GCA before you sign it. Your attorney must be separate and independent from the attorney used by your surrogate. You must have completed a mental health consultation.

 What are the requirements for a woman to be a gestational carrier?

  1. She is at least 21 years of age.
  2. She has given birth to at least one child.
  3. She has completed a physical medical evaluation in substantial conformance with the guidelines set forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
  4. She has completed a mental health consultation in conformance with the statutory requirements.
  5. She and her spouse or partner, if any, have consulted with an attorney regarding the terms and potential legal consequences of the GCA.

Who will be the legal parents of the child resulting from gestational surrogacy?

Under the new law, the intended parents shall be the sole legal parents of a child resulting from gestational surrogacy. The gestational carrier, her spouse or partner, if any, shall not be found to be legal parents. This understanding must be included in the GCA before any medical procedure to impregnate the gestational carrier can occur

The law distinguishes between gamete(s) or embryo(s) from a “donor,” who has no parental rights, and gamete(s) or embryo(s) that may be provided by an intended parent.

What are the minimum requirements for a GCA?

Yes, a GCA must meet the following requirements:

  1. Be in writing;
  2. Be executed before any medical procedures to impregnate the gestational carrier;
  3. All parties must be represented by legal counsel, and the legal counsel of the gestational carrier and her spouse or partner, if any, must be independent from the legal counsel for the intended parents;
  4. The gestational carrier must agree to:
    1. Undergo embryo transfer, become pregnant by means of assisted reproduction, and attempt to carry and give birth to the resulting child;
    2. Relinquish all rights, obligations, and duties as a parent of the child; and
    3. Surrender physical custody of the child to the intended parent(s) immediately upon birth of the child;
  5. The gestational carrier’s spouse or partner, if any, must agree to abide by the terms of the GCA including the relinquishment of all parental rights, obligations, and duties;
  6. The intended parent(s) must agree to:
    1. Accept sole rights, obligations and duties as parent(s) of the child;
    2. Accept sole physical custody and responsibility for the support of the child upon birth;
  7. Agreement of all parties as to how reasonable compensation, if any, will be paid to the gestational carrier;
  8. Agreement of all parties as to how, if the gestational carrier breaches a provision of the GCA or the law in a way that causes harm to the child, the gestational carrier will cover her potential liability;
  9. Agreement of all parties as to how decisions regarding termination of the pregnancy shall be made.

Can the intended parent(s) get a pre-birth order declaring them to be the child’s parent(s)?

Yes. Any of the parties to the GCA may petition the court for a parentage order declaring that the intended parent(s) are the sole parent(s) of the child and directing that the birth certificate reflect that. The parties may also seek such an order after the birth of the child.

Is traditional (genetic) surrogacy legal in New Hampshire?

Yes. Traditional surrogacy is not prohibited in New Hampshire, although intended parents who pursue this path will not be able to obtain a pre-birth order to establish their parental rights.

If same-sex parents raise a child together, but only one is the “legal” parent, then what rights does the non-legal parent have vis-à-vis the child?

These are tricky cases, but a non-legal parent may be able show that they stand in loco parentis to their child, entitling them to a limited number of rights, including the ability to intervene in custody proceedings. To establish in loco parentis, an individual must show that they admitted the child into their family and treated the child as a family member, forming a “psychological parent-child relationship.”

Short of second-parent adoption, how can a family protect the interests of the child vis-à-vis their non-legal parent?

There are a number of steps that can be taken, although none offer the security of a second-parent adoption.

  • Co-parenting agreement: A co-parenting agreement is an agreement setting out the parents’ expectations about each other’s roles and their plans in the event of separation, disability, or death. While these agreements may not always be given full effect by courts, which are bound to make custody and visitation decisions based on the child’s best interests, they are important indicators of what the couple believed was in the best interests of the child and may influence a court’s ultimate decision.
  • Co-guardianship: A legal parent may choose to name the non- legal parent as a co-guardian. This process allows the non-legal parent to make the same kinds of decisions for the child that a legal parent makes, including medical decisions. The best interest of the child standard controls appointments of guardians, and a guardian must file annual reports on the minor’s welfare. This status is not permanent and any person, including the legal parent, may petition to have a guardian removed.
  • Wills: A legal parent may use their will to nominate a guardian to take custody of the child upon the parent’s death. These wishes are given strong preference by courts. However, if the child has another legal parent living, then that person will have priority over the nominated guardian.


HB 1162 (law expanding parentage for LGBTQ+ families): Bill Text: NH HB1162 | 2020 | Regular Session | Amended | LegiScan

SB 353 (modernized surrogacy law): Bill Text: NH SB353 | 2014 | Regular Session | Introduced | LegiScan

Protecting Families: Protecting Families: Standards for LGBT Families – GLAD

Parenting a Transgender Child: Parenting a Transgender or Gender-Expansive Child: How to Protect Your Family Against False Allegations of Child Abuse

Family | Relationships | New Hampshire

What role did GLAD play in the fight for marriage equality?

GLAD led the fight for marriage equality in the United States. In the beginning, many states, instead of offering marriage to same-sex couples, provided the exact same state rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage but called them civil unions or registered domestic partnerships.

GLAD’s fight for marriage equality began in Vermont with its lawsuit, Baker v. Vermont. GLAD won the case, but the Vermont Supreme Court allowed the legislature to decide how to implement the decision. Instead of offering marriage to same-sex couples, the Vermont legislature created civil unions. GLAD then won marriage rights for same-sex couples for the first time in the United States in 2004 in its lawsuit, Goodridge v. Department of Public Health

This was followed by:

  • Maine approved domestic partnerships in 2004, which provided some of the protections of marriage;
  • civil unions in Connecticut in 2005;
  • GLAD’s lawsuit, Kerrigan v. Commissioner of Public Health, won marriage rights for Connecticut same-sex couples in 2008; 
  • civil unions in New Hampshire in 2008;
  • Vermont provides marriage for same-sex couples in 2009;
  • Vermont no longer allows civil unions but does not convert its civil unions into marriage in 2009;
  • marriage in New Hampshire in 2010;
  • Connecticut converts all its civil unions into marriage in 2010;
  • conversion of New Hampshire civil unions to marriage in 2011;
  • civil unions in Rhode Island in 2011; 
  • marriage in Maine in 2012; 
  • marriage in Rhode Island in 2013;
  • civil unions in Rhode Island ended in 2013, but existing civil unions were not converted into marriage.

At the federal level, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which was a preemptive attack on same-sex couples stating that if same-sex couples were ever allowed to marry that those marriages would not be recognized by the federal government. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in United States v. Windsor stated the DOMA was unconstitutional, and same-sex married couples were able to get federal benefits for the first time.

Finally, in Obergefell v. Hodges, on June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality a reality nationwide when it held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. GLAD’s own Mary Bonauto represented the plaintiffs at oral arguments. Post Obergefell, all 50 states are required to issue marriage licenses to same- sex couples; and all states must respect the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions.

Can same-sex couples marry in New Hampshire?

Yes. On June 3, 2009, Governor Lynch signed a marriage equality bill48 that extended the right to marry to same-sex couples. The bill became effective January 1, 2010, simultaneously ending the availability of New Hampshire civil unions on the same date. On January 1, 2011, all existing New Hampshire civil unions were transformed into marriages. For information about how to get married in New Hampshire see: Marriage Licenses | Concord, NH – Official Website

Will other states and the federal government respect my marriage?

Yes. The Obergefell v. Hodges decision guarantees that all states and the federal government must treat same-sex married couples in an identical way to different-sex married couples. That means that all the protections, rights and obligations that states and the federal government provide to different-sex married couples must also be provided to same-sex married couples.

Can I obtain Social Security survivor benefits if my spouse dies?

Yes, because as stated above, same-sex married couples are entitled to all the benefits provided to different-sex married couples.

However, until the Obergefell v. Hodges decision on June 26, 2015, many same-sex couples lived in states where unconstitutional marriage laws prevented same-sex couples from getting married. So when their spouse passed away, they were not able to meet the Social Security survivor benefit condition of having been married for 9 months.

To correct this unfairness, Lambda Legal filed two lawsuits, Ely v. Saul and Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security and was successful in obtaining a way for same-sex couples to file for Social Security survivor benefits who either never married (Ely v. Saul) or were finally able to marry but were married less than 9 months when their spouse passed away (Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security). 

These two rulings allow same-sex couples, who were excluded from marriage because of discriminatory state laws and consequently were not eligible to apply for Social Security survivor benefits, to submit an application. However, the success of that application rests on providing enough documentation to prove to Social Security that the only reason they did not meet the 9 month requirement was because of the discriminatory state laws.

The following link gives more detailed information and has FAQs for each lawsuit and lists some of the ways you might be able to provide the documentation needed to qualify for the survivor benefit: Information for Surviving Same-Sex Partners and Spouses Previously Excluded from Social Security Survivor’s Benefits Because of Unconstitutional State Marriage Laws | Lambda Legal

What happens if we need to end our marriage?

After Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex spouses everywhere can dissolve their marriages on the same terms as different-sex spouses. New Hampshire applies its divorce statutes to same-sex couples.

However, spouses should note that when New Hampshire courts divide marital property and award alimony, one of the factors a judge considers is length of marriage. Unfortunately for spouses whose partnership pre-dates marriage equality, the length of the marriage may not accurately reflect the true length of the relationship, resulting in an unbalanced division of assets. A recent New Hampshire Supreme Court case, In the Matter of Munson & Beal, addressed this issue and ruled that a judge may consider premarital cohabitation when dividing marital property. GLAD submitted an amicus brief in the case, See: In the Matter of Deborah Munson and Coralee Beal

If you are going through divorce proceedings in New Hampshire and believe your division of assets may be unfairly affected by the length of your marriage, contact GLAD Answers for referrals to attorneys in GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

Does New Hampshire still allow civil unions?

Not anymore. Effective January 1, 2010, New Hampshire stopped issuing civil union licenses; and effective January 1, 2011, all existing New Hampshire civil unions were converted into marriages by operation of law. If you have a civil union (or registered domestic partnership) from another state, New Hampshire will grant you the same rights and benefits, and hold you to the same responsibilities, as a married couple in New Hampshire. However, with the exception of Social Security, the federal government will not recognize your civil union.

What steps can a couple take to legally safeguard their relationship in New Hampshire?

There are various legal documents that can protect a couple’s relationship, regardless of whether the couple has no formal legal relationship or is already in a marriage.

  1. Relationship Agreement or Contract: A couple has the option of drafting a written cohabitation agreement, outlining their respective rights with regards to property, finances, and other aspects of their relationship. Although the New Hampshire Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the subject, these agreements should be enforced like any other contract. A number of states, Massachusetts included, explicitly enforce cohabitation agreements. Although a couple can choose to use a cohabitation agreement to make plans for the custody and support of children, a New Hampshire court will not uphold any agreement it finds to contravene the child’s best interests.
  2. Durable Power of Attorney: A couple can choose to grant each other the durable power of attorney, allowing one partner to make financial decisions on the other’s behalf in the event of incapacity or disability. The requirements are minimal: any competent person may appoint another person as their “attorney-in-fact,” although the power of attorney form must be signed and notarized. If no appointment is made, a family member will be empowered to make decisions for the incapacitated individual.
  3. Advance Directive for Health Care: A couple can choose to each create an “advance directive,” allowing them to make medical decisions on one another’s behalf in the event of an emergency. Absent an advance directive, medical care providers look to next- of-kin to make health care decisions for an incapacitated individual. If an unmarried couple wants to make decisions for one another, they need an advance directive.

An advance directive has two parts: a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Living Will. In the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you appoint a person to act as your health care agent and make medical decisions for you when you are incapacitated. You may also express your desires about end of life issues, including nutrition, hydration, and other life-sustaining treatments. The Living Will is a short statement about whether you want life-sustaining treatment continued when you are near death or permanently unconscious. You should give a copy of the advance directive to your doctors and may also consider giving it to family members.

An advance directive may either be signed by yourself and two witnesses, or signed by just yourself in the presence of a notary public. The following individuals do not count as witnesses: your spouse or heir, beneficiaries under any will or trust you may have, and the person you are appointing as your health care agent. Only one witness can be an employee of your healthcare provider. An advance directive can only be revoked by you.

If you later become incapacitated and a guardian is appointed for you, the appointing court should not revoke your health care agent’s authority unless there is clear and convincing evidence that doing so would be in your best interests.

  1. Will: Without a will, a deceased unmarried person’s property passes to: (1) their children; (2) their family; or (3) if next-of-kin cannot be located, to the state. If you wish to provide for others not on this list, such as your partner, a will is essential. Even if you have few possessions, you can name who will administer your estate in your will. If you have children, you can also nominate someone to be their future guardian in a will.
  2. Funeral Planning Documents: Upon death, a person’s body is given to his or her next-of-kin. This can mean that a person’s own partner has no right to remove the body or make plans for a final resting place. To avoid confusion and persuade relatives to honor your wishes, you can leave explicit written directions giving another person (such as your partner or a friend) control over the funeral and burial arrangements. While this document is not binding, it should help avoid complications in any but the most adversarial families. Some people include these instructions as part of a will, but since a will may not be found for days after death, it is preferable to give the instructions directly to the person you want to take care of matters, as well as to family members.
  3. Guardianship: New Hampshire’s broad guardianship laws allow, among other things, an individual to nominate another person as the guardian of their person, estate, or both.68 The advantage of nominating a guardian in advance is that you are selecting the person to take over all aspects of your financial matters.

Does a person need an attorney to get these documents?

GLAD recommends working with an attorney on these documents.

Although forms are available, the form may not be suited to your individual needs and wishes. Moreover, an attorney may be able to better help effectuate your goals, for example, by drafting a will in a way which is more likely to deter a will contest by unhappy family members, or an appointment of a health care agent with very specific instructions. In addition, an attorney may help to navigate the legal uncertainties flowing from the areas of overlap between these documents. GLAD Answers can provide referrals to attorneys who are members of GLAD’s Lawyer Referral Service.

If an unmarried couple separates, what is the legal status of a relationship or partnership agreement/contract?

Upon separation, if the couple has a Relationship or Partnership Agreement/Contract, its terms will be invoked, and the couple’s assets will be divided as per the agreement. Without an agreement, unmarried couples may be forced to endure costly and protracted litigation over property and financial matters.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have changed your mind about who should be your “attorney-in-fact,” health care representative, beneficiary or executor under a will, funeral planner, conservator, or designee under a designation document, then those documents should be revoked—with notice to all persons who were given copies of those documents—and new documents should be prepared which reflect your present wishes.

What is domestic partnership?

Although it is a term used in many contexts, “domestic partnership” most often means a status which recognizes an unmarried couple and their children as a family for certain limited purposes, most commonly employee benefits. Some states, cities, and towns have also enacted domestic partner laws. In other contexts, “domestic partner” is a shorthand term for family, replacing “lover,” “friend,” and “roommate.” Some people call cohabitation agreements “domestic partner agreements.”

Does New Hampshire provide domestic partner benefits to state employees?

Yes. Here is a link to the application form: Employee Health Benefit Program Affidavit of Same Sex Domestic Partnership .

Can cities and towns in New Hampshire provide domestic partner health insurance benefits to their own employees?

Yes, and some do.

What kinds of domestic partner benefits may private employers provide?

Private employers can provide to domestic partners many benefits, such as health insurance, family medical or bereavement leave, equal pension benefits, relocation expenses, or access to company facilities

Even when employers provide these benefits, federal and state laws require different tax treatment of the benefits for domestic partners as compared to spouses. For example, an employee must pay federal and state income tax on the value of his or her partner’s health insurance benefits (unless the partner is a tax dependent), but a spouse does not. Partners do not qualify as spouses under federally-controlled Flexible Spending Accounts unless the partner is also a tax dependent.

As for pensions, under the Federal Pension Protection Act of 2006, employers may amend their 401(k) plans so that non-spouse beneficiaries may retain the asset as a retirement asset. If a plan is amended, beneficiaries may “roll over” the 401(k) into an IRA depending upon the employee’s death whereas previous law required the beneficiary to take and pay income taxes on the 401(k) as a lump sum.

However, other discriminatory aspects of federal law remain regarding pensions. A domestic partner has no right to sign off if his or her partner decides to name someone else as the beneficiary of a pension, although a spouse would have that right. In addition, a domestic partner has no right comparable to that of a spouse to sign off on his or her partner’s designation of another person for survivor benefits.

What standards should same-sex couples with children who are breaking up maintain?

Same-sex couples with children who are breaking up should:

  1. Support the rights of LGBTQ+ parents;
  2. Honor existing relationships regardless of legal labels;
  3. Honor the children’s existing parental relationships after the break-up;
  4. Maintain continuity for the children;
  5. Seek a voluntary resolution;
  6. Remember that breaking up is hard to do;
  7. Investigate allegations of abuse;
  8. Not allow the absence of agreements or legal relationships to determine outcomes;
  9. Treat litigation as a last resort; and
  10. Refuse to resort to homophobic/transphobic laws and sentiments to achieve a desired result.

For more detailed information about these standards see the publication Protecting Families: Standards for LGBTQ+ Families at: Protecting Families: Standards for LGBT Families

How does a court generally go about making custody determinations?

When a married couple divorces or two unwed legal parents separate, a court encourages them to work together to create a “parenting plan” that allows them to share in the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. If the parents are unable to create a parenting plan, the court will create it for them. The court will treat both parents as equals. All decisions a court makes about custody are based solely on the best interests of the child and the safety of the parties. A court may award visitation or custody to step-parents or grandparents, and may also appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child.

Are there different kinds of custody?

Yes, four kinds:

  1. “Sole legal custody” means that only one parent has the right to make major life decisions for the child, including matters of education, medical care, and emotional, moral and religious development.
  2. “Shared legal custody” means that both parents are involved in and make these decisions.
  3. “Sole physical custody” means that a child lives with and is under the supervision of only one parent, subject to reasonable visitation with the other parent, unless a court finds that visitation is not in the child’s best interests.
  4. “Shared physical custody” means that the child resides with both parents in a way which ensures frequent contact with both.

If I have a child from a former straight relationship, and I am now involved with a same-sex partner, can my ex use my sexual orientation against me in custody proceedings?

As stated above, Connecticut courts base custody arrangements on the best interests of the child. As a general rule, a parent’s sexual orientation or marital status should have no bearing on a child’s best interests.

Nevertheless, your former partner may try to argue that your sexual orientation is detrimental to your child. Any number of reasons can be cited, such as that the LGBTQ+ parent’s sexual orientation is causing other people to tease or ostracize the child, that the parent is a bad role model, 

or that the parent’s new partner is not good for the child. In the overwhelming majority of circumstances, these matters can be answered to the satisfaction of a judge in a way that does not penalize the gay parent or the child. Contact GLAD for further resources for dealing with such a situation.

Is it considered harm to the child if he or she is teased about having a gay or lesbian parent?

It shouldn’t be. One of the additional responsibilities of being a gay or lesbian parent is helping one’s children deal with this possibility or reality. Of course, children can be teased about everything from the size of their ears to their parents’ accent to their lack of fashion sense, so all parents need to help their children develop coping mechanisms and strategies when peer harassment arises.

As a legal matter, particularly instructive is a U.S. Supreme Court case, Palmore v. Sidoti, in which the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a Florida court’s change of custody from the mother to the father. The reason custody had been switched was because the white mother was involved with a black man whom she later married. The Supreme Court acknowledged the reality of bias and prejudice, and that the child might be teased, but refused to cater to those prejudices or give them the force of law by changing the custody arrangement that previously existed. In a statement of constitutional principle applicable to all, the Court unanimously stated, “The Constitution cannot control prejudices, but neither can it tolerate them. Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.”

Does it matter if my ex knew or suspected I was LGBTQ+ before we separated?

It may make a difference with respect to future modification of court orders for custody. People can seek to modify court orders for custody when there has been a change in circumstances that alters the child’s best interests. If a spouse did not know of your sexual orientation or gender identity at the time of the court proceedings but learned of it later, they may argue that this is a change of circumstances and that the custody issues should be litigated anew.

Of course, if one spouse or former heterosexual partner knew of the other’s same-sex sexual orientation at the time of the court proceedings establishing custody, a modification petition on those grounds would be pointless.

Can a court keep my kids from visiting when my partner is present?

Visitation restrictions are inherently suspect. In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court did more than decriminalize sexual acts. It acknowledged the right of gay people to form and sustain loving personal relationships and lead their private lives free of government restrictions and legal condemnation. Since gay people may make “personal decisions relating to … family relationships [and] child rearing,” custody and visitation restrictions must be handled accordingly. Mere differences in moral values between a court and a parent, presumptions about a gay parent’s conduct, or “social condemnation” of their relationship should no longer be permissible factors, if they ever were.

Courts have the power to do this but should not do so unless it is clearly in the best interests of the child. Connecticut courts have rejected the notion that any particular lifestyle, in and of itself, will harm a child and so will insist on specific proof.


History of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States: History of same-sex marriage in the United States – Wikipedia

Guide to Wills and Estate Planning: Guide to Wills and Estate Planning

Divorce: How to File a Divorce Petition | New Hampshire Judicial Branch

Divorce/Parenting: Divorce/Parenting | New Hampshire Judicial Branch

Divorce, Separation & Annulment: Divorce, Separation & Annulment | New Hampshire Legal Aid

Cases & Advocacy

To see Family cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in New Hampshire, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Family” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Family in New Hampshire, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Family” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”