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Gay Texas dad wins sole legal child custody of Houston son

The end of a marriage is a physical, emotional and legal separation. One of the most difficult issues for divorcing Houston parents to resolve can be child custody. Disagreements that cannot be worked out go before a Texas family court and sometimes a jury.

Parents' concerns are considered, but the ultimate decision centers around the best interests of the child. A Texas jury's recent ruling about a boy's custody favored a gay parent as sole managing conservator. The judgment was not based on sexual orientation, as much as the discord between the men leading up to the custody trial.

The parents were a gay married couple who, according to an out-of-state court, were the boy's legal parents. A surrogate carried the couple's child, conceived using an egg donation and one parent's sperm. The men's relationship ended, when one of them renounced homosexuality and later married a woman.

The gay father sought joint custody, but the parent whose sexual orientation changed hoped Texas laws would support his bid for sole custody. However, paternity judgments made in other states are honored in Texas, even when they conflict with state law. An attempt to sway the court by claiming biological parentage also didn't work, since a parent's legal status is not dependent upon a biological link.

The jury found nothing wrong with the men's individual parenting skills, but felt the exes would not co-parent successfully. Co-parenting requires cooperation some exes can't manage without harming children. In this case and similar child custody situations, courts may award sole managing conservatorship to one parent and visitations to the other parent.

Sole managing conservatorship is the Texas term for sole legal custody. Legal custody gives one parent authority to makes life-influencing choices, like the schools a child attends. Physical custody is a separate issue dealing with the child's primary residence, which also can be one parent's responsibility or shared by both.

Source: The Washington Post, "C.B.W. has two daddies — even in Houston; and the gay one gets custody, says the jury" Eugene Volokh, Sep. 22, 2014

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