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Navigating Custody of LGBTQ+ Children

As the parent of an LGBTQ+ child, you’re likely aware of the stigmas they face. It’s your responsibility to protect your kids from harm. This is even more important if they have a marginalized sexual orientation or gender identity. Supportive and protective parents can make all the difference in helping queer children grow up into happy, healthy adults. 

But what if your co-parent doesn’t feel the same way? Your co-parent’s attitude toward gender expression and same-sex attraction will have just as much of an impact on your kids. If they are unsupportive, or worse, actively homophobic or transphobic, they could seriously harm your child if they retain custody. 

If you’re divorcing your spouse or navigating custody concerns for your LGTBQ+ kid, their safety should be your first priority. That may mean fighting for sole legal and physical custody if your co-parent doesn’t respect their identity. Here’s what you need to know about the challenges you may face when navigating custody of LGBTQ+ children in Oregon and strategies for putting their safety first. 

The Risks of Custody Disputes Involving LGBTQ+ Children

Custody disputes are no more complicated than average if both parents are equally supportive of a transgender or non-heterosexual child. However, if either parent disagrees with their child’s stated identity, the dispute is elevated because the kid may be at risk. 

Should your co-parent receive shared or full custody, they will have the right to make decisions on your children’s behalf. These decisions may not be in your kid’s best interest, particularly if your co-parent is actively biased against the queer community. Some of the possible harmful experiences your child may face with their unsupportive parent include:

  • Unsupportive environments: Parents who do not “believe in” their child’s attraction or gender identity are unlikely to support them at home. They may refuse to allow the child to dress according to their expressed gender, bar them from ordinary activities for their age, and otherwise leave your kid unable to be themselves or receive the support they need. 
  • Refusal of medical treatment: If your kid is transgender, they may request to start puberty blockers, which are safe and medically trusted medications frequently used to pause development in cisgender children for whom puberty has begun too early. An unsupportive parent is unlikely to permit your kid to start these medications and may force them to stop taking them if they have already begun. 
  • Potential enrollment in “conversion” camps: Some particularly biased parents believe children can be “forced” to become cisgender and heterosexual. These parents may enroll children in so-called “conversion” camps, where the staff and faculty attempt to train the children to ignore their innate gender and attraction in favor of imitating heterosexual and cisgender people. 

These risks can permanently affect your child’s mental health and well-being. If you believe your co-parent may expose your kid to these dangers, you have every right to fight for full custody of your child to protect them.

How to Put Your LGBTQ+ Child First in Custody Disputes

Oregon is a relatively accepting state, and child custody legislation and public policy are in place to protect children from unsupportive parents in custody disputes. Still, it is in your child’s best interest to understand how to make custody disputes as safe and stress-free as possible. Some of the best ways to do that include:

Listen to Your Kid

Your kid is the expert on their own lived experiences. Talk to them about their feelings and how they are treated, then listen to their answers. Do they feel like their other parent supports them? Are they happy with who they are and how they present? What do they need to thrive? 

While Oregon law doesn’t require judges to consider a child’s preferences when determining custody, their testimony may still impact the court’s ruling. If your child says their other parent’s attitudes and behavior are harming them, that’s valuable evidence that they should not spend time with them. 

Give Your Child a Safe Environment

Regardless of your co-parent’s opinions, you can give them a safe and supportive environment as long as your child is still with you. Give your kid the opportunity to present how they want and spend time with other people in safe LGBTQ+ spaces

Many schools and community centers offer queer youth groups overseen by trained counselors and mandatory reporters. These people can help your child as they grow into their identity. They can also provide valuable testimony if you believe your kid is being harmed by their other parent’s views.

Work With Professional Support

It’s never a bad thing to have experts on your side. Find LGBTQ+ friendly counselors, therapists, or Social Services caseworkers in your area. These professionals can work with you and your child to determine the best possible outcome for your custody case. They can testify in court about what a kid needs to thrive and how their homophobic or transphobic parent may hinder that. They can also help you develop strategies for supporting your kid during and after the custody dispute to ensure they receive the care and protection they deserve. 

Protect Your Queer Children With Assistance From Regele Law Firm, LLC

Fighting for custody of your LGBTQ+ kid can be scary if you believe their other parent will cause them harm. You don’t have to face this conflict on your own, however. Instead, you can work with an experienced, empathetic child custody attorney who understands the risks queer children face. We will work closely with you at Regele Law Firm, LLC, to protect and advocate for your children. We are LGBTQ+ friendly and have years of experience in addressing the family law needs unique to the community. You can learn more about how we can support you and your queer child in your custody dispute by calling 503-594-7027 or reaching out online.