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Very few family law standards exist to govern transgender rights

Family law issues in Pennsylvania and nationwide are becoming more complex all the time based on the changing, sometimes-misunderstood values and cultures that now blend into many families. One of the most controversial and disputed subjects in the family law context has to do with transgender minors. Eventually, most courts will face the question of what rights, if any, do these children possess to control their bodies and their destinies.

A dispute has arisen in a neighboring state between a transgender teen, his parents and the minor’s grandparents. A custody trial recently wrapped up and led to a decision by the family law judge to transfer custody of the 17-year-old who identifies as a male and is transitioning to that gender. The judge also gave the grandparents the authority to make medical decisions regarding his transition.

The child’s parents originally petitioned the court for an order confirming custody and for the authority to prevent hormone treatments to be administered by his medical team to facilitate the transition. The parents refused to call him by his newly selected name and fought the recommendation of his medical team for the transition. The child allegedly became suicidal as a result.

Prior to going ahead with any hormone treatment, the court ordered that the teen be evaluated by an independent psychologist not affiliated with the current medical team. The court asked that the issue of whether the child’s gender association is consistent be evaluated. She also asked that the evaluation include a review of his feelings of nonconformity. The court also granted visitation rights to the parents and encouraged them to work for the child’s reintegration into the family unit.

The teen’s medical team had recommended the transition due to his suicidal expressions under the current circumstances. The presiding family law judge indicated that the issue is one of the most difficult for custody courts to resolve because there are no established legislative rules for the handling of such matters. She invited legislators to act accordingly. The complexity of the issue and lack of established procedural and substantive standards presents a similar problem in Pennsylvania and most other states.

Source:, “Judge gives grandparents custody of Ohio transgender teen“, Feb. 16, 2018

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Louis Emmi

Louis Emmi