A bill that would ease restrictions on same-sex couples with regard to their children, and make it easier for children to have legal relationships with both parents after a divorce is making its way through the Connecticut Legislature.
About 50 family law attorneys in Connecticut had input in drafting the proposed Connecticut Parentage Act, which would make it easier for children who live with same-sex couples to have equal access to both parents after divorce or separation.
It was essential to have the input of family law attorneys involved in the process, attorneys familiar with the bill and its language said.
“This bill has had the best minds in family law working on it. Family law attorneys are very interested in this bill, and lawyers in the field are very aware of this bill because it corrects a lot of bad laws. Without this bill, children are left vulnerable and their relationship with their parents can be put on the line when their parents have disputes,” said family law attorney Meghan Freed, who helped craft some of the bill’s language.
Freed is managing co-partner of Freed Marcroft in Hartford with her wife Kristen Marcroft. The firm handles about 40 same-sex adoptions a year and about 20 same-sex divorces and breakups annually, Freed said.
Freed said passage of the bill could mean less work for family law attorneys.
“Family law attorneys would still be needed if a couple breaks up but, in the context of that case, the children’s relationship with both parents will now be secure if this bill passes. That would mean less for family law attorneys to do. You won’t need that second step,” Freed said.
The bill would also ensure that both parents—the biological parent and the nonbiological parent—are treated as equal parents under the law. Today, in some respects, that isn’t the case, experts said.
“Right now, Connecticut laws don’t reflect how people are actually forming families, such as through assisted reproduction. This law will ensure that when people have children through assisted reproduction, the intended parents are treated as the legal parents from the moment of the child’s birth,” said Yale law professor Douglas NeJaime, the principal drafter of the bill. “The biggest problem, in my mind, is that nonbiological parents do not receive adequate protections in the law and that will change with this bill. It will ensure that children with nonbiological parents have those individuals as legal parents.”
It was vital to get the input from family law attorneys in crafting the bill, NeJaime said Wednesday.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing things in accordance with how those attorneys thought things should be done since they are on the ground and on the front lines,” NeJaime said.
One example of how the passage of Bill 6321, which was debated in front of a joint session of the House and Senate judiciary committees this week, would change things legally is “if two unmarried women broke up and the nonbiological mother went to an attorney they wouldn’t be allowed to do anything under the law. One of the parents would be a legal stranger to that child. This bill would change that and it’s a benefit to both parent and child. Children do better when parentage is certain and secure,” NeJaime said.
The chief sponsor of the bill is the We Care Coalition, a joint partnership between Yale Law School and the Boston-based gay advocacy group GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders.
Sponsors said gaps in the current law leave Connecticut children and families vulnerable because it doesn’t protect LGBTQ+ couples raising children and leaves the relationship between the non-biological parent and child in a precarious position.
NeJaime said there doesn’t appear to be any real opposition to the bill, although, he noted, the Judiciary Committee just met on the matter this week. NeJaime said Gov. Ned Lamont expressed support for a similar bill last year and is expected to sign off on the bill if it hits his desk this legislative session.
NeJaime said New York and every other state in New England have passed similar measures.