Each state has the authority to enact laws regulating marriage and divorce. For this reason, there can be significant differences among the states with respect to myriad related issues. For instance, as recently as last year, the highest court in the country struck down certain state bans on same-sex marriage. While many states, Maryland included, already recognized and upheld same-sex marriages, some states did not. This decision paved the way for equality in marriage. Interestingly enough, such equality can impact other family law rights, such as a same-sex couple’s right to pursue divorce, as well as the right to adopt children. Due to the unique nature of each state’s laws, it is important to consult with a local Maryland family law attorney if you are considering a divorce or any legal procedure affecting your family.
With respect to equality in family law issues, according to a national news article, the United States Supreme Court just recently reversed a decision by the highest court in Alabama that refused to recognize a same-sex adoption. Here, two women — V.L. and her partner E.L. — never married and lived in Alabama. E.L. gave birth to three children while the couple was together. In order for V.L. to be able to adopt the children, the women established a temporary residency in Georgia. A Georgia court granted V.L. parental rights.
When the couple split up, E.L. denied V.L. access to the children. V.L. filed a lawsuit in Alabama, asking the court to recognize her status as an adoptive parent. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled that it was not required to recognize V.L.’s parental rights because the Georgia court erred in granting her those rights in the first place. Specifically, the Court pointed out that the Georgia court had no authority under that State’s law to grant the adoption in this case. Therefore, the Court concluded, the decision was void and not entitled to “full faith and credit” under the Constitution.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the Alabama decision. The issue before the Court was whether the Alabama Court was required to recognize the Georgia adoption in accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s full faith and credit clause. This provision requires states to give “full faith and credit . . . to the public acts and judicial proceedings of every other state.” The Supreme Court concluded that the clause applied to this case, ruling that a state may not disregard a ruling by another state simply because it does not agree with the reasoning that underlies the judgment, or considers it to be wrong on the merits.
Supporters of the Court’s decision laud the ruling as a victory for adopted families, and point out that the case could affect other states that attempt to challenge or deny same-sex adoptions. However, according to one article, the decision was not really about marriage (but rather the full faith and credit clause), and does not require that same-sex couples automatically be granted parental rights.
This most recent case illustrates the unique nature of every family law proceeding and the strong need to protect your legal rights every step of the way. An experienced family law attorney would be able to assess your particular case and navigate the sometimes-complicated legal proceedings. Anthony A. Fatemi is a family law attorney with a great deal of experience representing parties throughout the state of Maryland. For help with your family law needs, you are encouraged to contact us at (301) 519-2801, or to submit our online contact form.
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