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Law adaptations for an evolving society and family unit

27/07/2022

Author: Jo Mayes

Child Law

Society has become more enlightened to LGBTQ+ family matters

Families now come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. The ‘traditional’ male father, female mother and 2.4 children is mainly consigned to the past. Today, children are often brought up with their step and half brothers and sisters. In this article, Child Law specialist in Norwich, Jo Mayes, discusses the challenges faced by families in the LGBTQ+ community and how the law is adapting to represent them.

There are many more children cared for by parents in same-sex relationships or with parents who are transgender or non-binary.

Family Law is evolving to meet the needs of our changing society and to keep pace with scientific progress. As the former President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby wrote in 2018, ‘Our thinking about what a family continues to change, not in the least in the light of more enlightened thinking about transgender people. We are, or, if we are not yet, we soon will be, grappling with the question of whether a child can have more than two parents and whether a child can have only a father and not a mother. These may be in part ethical questions, but they are also fundamentally important questions of law’.

It was only after The Adoption and Children Act 2002, which came into force in 2005, that LGBTQ+ adopters were given the same rights as heterosexual or cisgender parents. It is clear that things have come a long way since case law in 1977 when the Judge stated, ‘in some respects, society has changed its views on homosexuality……but it remains unnatural, and society continues to disapprove of it. It is most dangerous for a young person to come into contact with it’.

In this day and age, such a statement is truly unbelievable.

How far we have come...

As society has become more enlightened, we are aware of children presenting as transgender or non-binary. This begs the question of when it is appropriate for a minor to undergo transition. The Courts decided in 2020 that it isn’t appropriate for a young adult under 16 to undergo gender reassignment surgery but after further Court action, it has decided that young adults under 16 can be prescribed puberty blockers. This means they can give informed consent to transition when older without having undergone the physical changes normally experienced during puberty.

Whilst there is still a way to go to ensure that LGBTQ+ families and children are treated the same way by the Family courts, there has certainly been enormous progress.

Need support for a child law matter?

Please get in touch with us and we can help you. Contact Jo Mayes via jomayes@hatchbrenner.co.uk or call 01603 660 811.

Jo Mayes - Family Law Legal Executive

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