Courts Face Challenges In Custody Battles Involving Trans* and Non-Conforming Kids

Arizona Family lawyerWhen a couple divorces, determining child custody often is one of the most contentious elements of the legal process.

A recent article in reveals the difficult challenges facing courts considering custody cases involving trans* and gender non-conforming children. Family courts in Phoenix and throughout Arizona may not be well-equipped to handle such cases. Parents with trans* and gender non-conforming children need an experienced and compassionate lawyer on their side to advocate for them.

The report highlights a case involving divorced parents with joint custody of their children and equal parenting time. The mother allowed one of the children, a male, to wear a skirt to school. The father then argued in court that the mother “was pushing a female gender identification” on the child and asked that the child live with him full time. He wanted to make decisions about the child’s health and schooling.

In response, a judge ruled the mother should stop discussing gender-related issues at home and stop dressing the child in traditionally feminine clothing. In addition, the mother was told not to allow the child to have toys oriented toward girls and was told not to refer to the child as “her,” “she” or a “girl.”

The judge’s injunctions were temporary but stayed in place for over two years while the case was under review. Ultimately, the court decided it was in the best interest of the three children to live full time with their father.

Courts examine the question: what is in the best interest of the child?

Family courts in many states use a subjective “best interest of the child” standard, which is why cases involving trans* children can be difficult to mediate. In the case chronicled by, the child was diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” which refers to the conflict between the child’s physical sex and the gender the child identifies with. Children with this diagnosis face a higher risk of suicide, anxiety and depression if they are rejected by their families.

An Appeals Court reviewed the case involving the child with gender dysphoria deciding that the father’s view of his child’s situation may result in the father making “less-than-ideal choices” regarding care. But the court granted him custody despite the concerns.

The Appeals Court also effectively ended a judge’s earlier ruling that the parents were forbidden from talking about gender-identity issues with the child. The limitation was “severe micromanagement of Mother and Father’s parenting,” according to the Appeals Court. quoted a gender-identity expert who agreed with the court’s decision to allow the parents to hold gender discussions, but who was puzzled by other parts of the decision which might have put the child at risk.

“We do worry that … the child is left potentially unprotected here,” the legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights told

At Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC, we have handled a complicated custody disputes involving families with a wide range of challenges. If you have a trans* or gender non-conforming child and need an experienced custody attorney in Phoenix, contact Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC. We put our experience and knowledge of the law to work for our clients.

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