The LGBTQIA+ community is an important part of Maryland, and though they are afforded the important rights other citizens of the state enjoy, there are unique challenges, considerations, and issues individuals in the community must face and address when exercising their legal rights. To ensure the LGBTQIA+ community members enjoy equality and continue to remain equal, it is important to understand where issues and legal matters may arise that benefit from the assistance of an experienced Maryland attorney. A community dear to our heart, we are here to help with a wide range of legal issues.
Individuals and couples in Maryland’s LGBTQIA+ community have the ability to partake in the same activities as others in the state when it comes to marriage, children, and estate planning, but it is important to understand your legal rights and the protections afforded by the law. An experienced Maryland LGBTQIA+ attorney can help ensure you get fair treatment by the courts when choosing to engage in marriage, divorce, estate planning.
Marriage and Divorce
In Maryland, same-sex couples can marry and divorce. This means the same rights that other couples enjoy will apply when it comes to issues such as:
Division of Marital Property
When it comes to children, Maryland courts recognize that individuals such as those in the LGBTQIA+ community who do not have a biological or an adoptive relationship but have raised a child may still have recognition as a parent and have the legal right to child custody or visitation. This means non-traditional marriages which end may result in both spouses being present in a child’s life after divorce, and a spouse may challenge for custody or visitation rights during divorce proceedings.
Prenuptial and Separation Agreements
Unlike many states, Maryland never created any laws regarding prenuptial agreements – contracts future spouses create before marriage to deal with assets and property division, alimony, inheritance rights, and other issues in the event of divorce. Rather, Maryland deals with prenuptial agreements using the state’s contract laws. To create a valid prenuptial agreement:
It must be in writing
It must be signed by both spouses
There must be no fraud, duress, coercion, mistake, undue influence, incompetence, or unconscionability
Each spouse should give the other a full disclosure of both assets and debts
In contrast to some states, Maryland does not require couples to create a written separation agreement to divorce. These agreements are legally finding contracts created in anticipation of divorce but after marriage that set out terms agreed to by the spouses regarding issues including child custody, child support, visitation, alimony, and asset division.
Many people believe estate planning only governs what happens when you die. However, the field also covers many issues that can arise when you are alive which are critical to same-sex couples. Comprehensive estate plans detail:
Power of attorney to pay bills, handle finances and property, and make decisions on non-healthcare issues
Advance directives that appoint someone to make decisions related to your healthcare if you become unable to do so
Designating a guardian for any minor children you have
Distributing assets so they avoid intestacy – which in Maryland does not recognize a partner in a same-sex unmarried couple’s right to inherit their partner’s property
Creating an estate plan gives the person of your choosing powers you designate and allows you to ensure your wishes are carried out if you are unable to make decisions or pass away. Many times, family members of one partner who may be opposed to LGBTQIA+ relationships will try to step in, make decisions for their family member – many of which are detrimental to the partner, and ultimately exclude that person’s partner from decision-making and other benefits they would have had if their partner made their wishes legally binding. Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, they often cannot do so.
Though Maryland’s Court of Appeals made a 2007 decision which indirectly approved of surrogacy arrangements, there are currently no laws on the subject. However, there are several steps of a legal surrogacy process which courts and judges decide in these cases. The process is required for both heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ people alike.
Because no surrogacy laws exist in Maryland, there are no laws addressing surrogacy agreements. However, the surrogate and the child’s intended parents must retain separate surrogacy counsel in Maryland to draft the agreement. Surrogacy contracts should set out:
Each party’s rights and responsibilities
Risks, liabilities, and what happens if one occurs
Compensation and any other financial details such as insurance
It is important to work with a Maryland attorney experienced with surrogacy to ensure the contract addresses the issues related to beginning the medical process associated with surrogacy, as well as the process of obtaining a pre-birth parentage order to avoid the need for formal adoption after the birth.
A large number of LGBTQIA+ individuals have children – about 6 million Americans. If they have not brought in children from a prior relationship or engaged a surrogate, Maryland permits them to adopt.
Any adult in the state may petition to adopt. Maryland prohibits discrimination against any petitioner based on sexual orientation; this includes a spouse in a same-sex marriage joining their spouses petition and adopting jointly or an LGBTQIA+ individual petitioning alone to adopt. If the spouse in a same-sex marriage has a child from a previous relationship, Maryland law permits them to adopt that child through stepparent adoption. Regardless of LGBTQIA status, adoption is a complex process that is best entered with help from an experienced Maryland attorney.
Laws in Maryland protect LGBTQIA+ individuals from housing, employment, and public accommodation discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression. If you were the victim of discrimination, our team of attorneys can fight for your rights and the remedies available by law to rectify the situation.
Contact a Maryland LGBTQIA+ Attorney
Individuals and couples in Maryland’s LGBTQIA+ community have been granted many rights and much more equality in recent times, however they still face unique challenges when dealing with life events and other circumstances that others do not. To address these situations head on, find desirable solutions, and take advantage of all your rights, it’s advisable to work with a skilled Maryland LGBTQIA+ attorney. We have years of experience helping clients within this community address these and other issues to live full lives and exercise their rights. Schedule a consultation with our office to learn more and get started.