Blog Posts


April 25, 2022
Gender-Neutral Language Affects the Law

You’ve probably seen or heard information on some of the most recent changes in societal norms. After all, it’s hard to ignore these kinds of things when they’re happening all around you. But did you know that those changes have translated into revisions of family law codes and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act? The changes were created to adjust the gender-specific language and make it gender-neutral instead. Here’s what that could mean for you and how it’s benefiting others in the family law space.

How Gender-Neutral Language Affects the Law

One example of how being gender-neutral affects parenting and family custody laws is a recent case of a woman who wasn’t the biological parent. But she had been the children’s mother for all intents and purposes for the past eight years. The oldest child was 11, so that was most of these children’s lives that they had seen her as a mother and treated them as her children. She was able to get visitation and custody because of the change to gender-neutral language.

Previously, Family Code Section 7611D stated that a presumed father could apply for parentage if he had held himself out to be the father and had been recognized as such by the children. But there was no “presumed mother” language in the code since the biological mother was the only “mother” being recognized. The same code says “presumed parent,” which means a woman with a significant role as a mother can also apply for visitation and custody, just as a man could in the past (and still can).

Presumed Parents Now Have Rights After a Break-Up

Because the children treated the woman as their mother and the father had also referred to her as the children’s mom in public, she met all the 7611D qualifications of a presumed parent. Even though this woman and the children’s father have broken up, she can still have visitation and custody rights because of the gender-neutral language change in the current laws. Because of this adjustment, the children haven’t lost someone they genuinely think of as a mom.

Domestic Violence Guidance is Also Changing

In the past, it was challenging for a man to get a restraining order or other domestic violence (DV) protection against a woman due to the perception that the man was generally always the violent or controlling party. Now the code has been changed to gender-neutral, and there is no longer an assumption based on males or females. With many people identifying as transgender or nonbinary, this has also opened the door for fair and accurate representation and the needed level of legal protection in DV cases.

If you have questions or concerns about these changes or a legal case that could be impacted by changes to the wording of these areas of law, reach out to us at Hartley Lamas et al. today. We can help you navigate the differences to provide you with the best possible outcome for your case.

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