Tennessee judge grants woman husband's rights in same-sex divorce

A 4th Circuit Court judge in Tennessee has made several legislators unhappy and several others very happy. The judge issued the first ruling of its kind in Tennessee. A same-sex couple was seeking a divorce. One-half of the couple was granted the legal rights of a husband.

Not everyone was happy, though, and that included members of the state Legislature. After the Legislature learned what the judge was going to do, they tried to push a bill through that would have stopped the judge from granting the woman the legal rights of a husband.

Just a few days later, the state's governor, Bill Haslam, signed a bill into law. That law ordered the courts in the state to give "natural" means to words like mother and father.

The couple seeking the divorce had been married in 2014. They purchased a home and had a baby girl through artificial insemination. Tennessee didn't recognize same-sex marriage as legal in 2015, so the other woman's name was not put on the birth certificate.

The same judge who heard arguments on the natural meaning of husband was also the same judge to rule that the woman didn't qualify to have the legal rights of a husband last year. His ruling to allow the woman to have the legal rights of a husband was a reversal of the previous year's ruling.

A challenge to the constitutionality of the law was filed by the woman's attorney because it was passed many decades ago and went against the Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal. The Legislature tried to pass the "natural meaning" bill that would keep a woman from being legally labeled as a husband. However, the judge did not allow the Legislature to intervene in the woman's divorce case or in his court.

Instead, the judge took the advice of the Tennessee Attorney General's office and looked at the words "husband" and "wife" as gender-neutral. The judge then ruled that the woman was the legal father of the baby girl and has the right to see her child. Child support was also ordered.

The Legislature has since filed a notice intending to appeal the judge's refusal to allow them to intervene.

If you are involved in a complex child custody case, an experienced attorney can provide advice and guidance. In addition, he or she can protect your rights and the rights of your child.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, "Knox County judge grants woman rights of 'husband' in Tennessee's first same-sex divorce," Jamie Satterfield, May 10, 2017

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