Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the U.S., the expectation is that courts will fine-tune divorce laws in order to give both same-sex spouses equal protections in marriage and in divorce. But do birth moms assume an unfair advantage during a lesbian break-up? Unfortunately, there is no data available on how custody and other issues play out in same-sex families yet. But about a year ago, I learned of a secret Facebook group for lesbians who were going through divorce. Many of the women in this group were dealing with the same issues I was dealing with. Yet, the most troubling pattern I discovered was that of gender inequality. Here are the trends that surfaced over and over again.
Birth moms assumed physical custody of children
Post after post, non-birth mothers had to deal with maintaining a long-distance relationship with their children. The non-birth moms acted as if they had no rights to go against the decisions of the birth mom. Yet in each instance, the children were born into their established partnership and the decision to become parents had been a joint decision.
Birth moms remained in the “marital” home
Non-birth moms had to move out of their home because the birth mom took random ownership of their dwelling. This was another common discussion trend in the group. Whether the birth mom or the non-birth mom had been cheating or not, the expectation was the same, the non-birth mom had to leave her home. In some cases, the non-birth mom was relegated to another room in the house on a temporary basis.
Birth moms took the lead on decisions about their children
When it comes to raising a family, there is a slew of decisions that need to be made to provide what is in the best interest of children. Whether it is where they go to daycare or school, to immunizations to religion, etc. But in each case discussed in this group, the birth mom assumed all rights and made decisions without consulting the ex-partner. Non-birth moms had zero voice in the matter. You could easily hear their helplessness in these situations. It was so heartbreaking.
Even with same-sex marriage being legal across the United States, there is still a lot of work that the legal community needs to do to provide equal protection to both partners during same-sex divorce. Gender equality is at the heart of it. When there are two moms or two dads, who gets physical custody? Will birth moms continue to receive an unfair advantage just because? Did you have a different experience? We’d love to hear from non-birth moms, please comment.
Marjorie Soto’s gay marriage ended in divorce. Marjorie believes that there is a persistent denial that lesbian divorce exists. She blogs about this and other LGBT divorce issues at LifeInJeans.com. She helps lesbians impacted by divorce find community so they don’t have to go at it alone. Life in Jeans provides support through real stories and experiences.