The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out in support of equal rights for couples and families regardless of sexual orientation, citing the overwhelming benefits for children. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/18/peds.2013-0376.full.pdf) The AAP made it clear that the presence of a household in which the children have a stable, loving relationship with two parents was a far greater predictor of the wellness of a child then the sexual orientation of the parents. The publication noted the “inconsistent patchwork” of policies across states regulating social institutions which limit or allow for same-sex couples to build family units and supported structures (and therefore, a nurturing, positive environment for children to thrive).
Indeed, this lack of structure in our social and legal framework for facilitating same-sex families is deeply troubling. The burdens placed on same-sex couples and the overwhelming lack of means to protect the family and relationship, including in the event of dissolution, are reflections of a failure in the system.
It is my great hope that Collaborative Law can function as a means to help alleviate the negative consequences of this failure. All couples can benefit from going outside of the system, sitting down face to face with the support of a Team of professionals, and planning a future for their family—which includes making accommodations for the possibility that the relationship will not last forever. Heterosexual couples often fail in doing this, assuming that the system will protect them should the family come apart. Indeed, they are privy to basic protections (such as the ability to maintain contact with their children and a guarantee of some financial security) which preserve family stability in the long term. This is why the Collaborative Process can be especially helpful for same-sex partnerships that are unfortunately, not yet afforded these same rights. It is devastating to see the consequences on children especially, of a partnership where the law fails to protect the bonds between the children and one parent, simply because that parent is not heterosexual and not blood related to the child. I strongly encourage all couples, but particularly same-sex couples, to negotiate family agreements and put the children and their well being at the forefront, guaranteeing both parents the ability to maintain a loving and healthy relationship with their children, even if their union ends.