Although things are changing, at least in some states, many gay couples raising children together still face many legal challenges, especially in the event of a breakup or the death of the biological parent.
In Michigan, one lesbian couple, an Attorney and a former Mechanic, have taken pains to create as nearly as possible the equivalent of equal spousal and parental rights, despite Michigan’s prohibition of adoption by a gay person of their partner’s biological or legally adopted child.
In this de facto family, the Attorney has given birth to two children. The Mechanic stays home and serves as the primary caregiver to the children.
Accordingly, the Mechanic earns no salary and is not permitted to save for her retirement on a tax-favored basis.
Nor does the Mechanic have any right to visitation or timesharing with the children in the event the couple breaks up … or the Attorney dies.
In fact, the Mechanic’s parental rights are severely limited even being together with Attorney. The Attorney signs a parental consent form twice a year authorizing her to consent to treatment for the children and related matters. Hardly a reliable solution.
The couple have consulted with experts who concentrate on serving nontraditional families like theirs. They have received some helpful advice … but cannot or choose not to act upon much of it.
As far as the children go, key recommendations include:
- power of attorney for parental authority, which does not expire automatically
- parental appointment of guardian
- domestic partner agreement and
- co-parenting agreement
From a financial perspective, the breadwinner partner can hire the nurturing partner as a nanny for a nominal salary. That would at least permit the nurturing partner to invest their nominal salary in an IRA.