U.S. District Judge Dee Benson has made one family in Utah very happy; he recently awarded full parental rights and two names allowable on a birth certificate of an infant delivered to a lesbian couple that had, until this summer, been skeptical of what legal privileges they’d be granted, and what ones that they’d have to fight tooth and nail for. Any Utah family lawyer knows that parental rights among same-sex couples in the state are a big deal, and Benson’s ruling is likely paving the way for “other aspects of Utah marriage and family law that will have to be reviewed in the wake.”
Policy makers will want to take a closer look at current law, especially given June’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex unions in every single U.S. state, and Angela and Kami Roe, proud new parents in Utah, couldn’t be happier about it. But it’s not simple everywhere, a Utah family lawyer might be keen to remind same-sex parents in the Beehive state. Family attorneys Texas, for example, are warning their clients that marriage doesn’t preclude the need for adoption to gain parental rights in same-sex unions. But for now, at least in Utah, “the state has failed to show any legitimate reason, actually any reason at all, for not treating a female spouse in a same-sex marriage the same as a male spouse in an opposite-sex marriage with regard to be recognized as the legal parent,” according to the ruling judge on the case.
But Kami and Angela Roe, as excited as they are, did have to fight for this privilege. Their daughter was born after being conceived with the help of donated sperm, and while a Utah family lawyer knows current “Utah laws governing assisted reproduction” state that “a married husband whose wife conceives with donated sperm is automatically considered the child’s father,” the same rules didn’t apply for married mothers—until now. Judge Benson ruled easily in favor of the Roes, and stated that “discrimination was clear” in current law.
And it may still be, despite his ruling, at least for some same-sex couples; as lesbian-headed families rejoice at the newly set precedent, a Utah family lawyer might grimly remind some same-sex couples that “the decision does not affect married gay men.” The statute regarding Utah’s assisted-reproduction doesn’t apply to a woman’s egg or surrogacy yet. But this is where the legislature will likely be pressed to review some of the current laws and decide how they need to change. Utah’s Solicitor General Parker Douglas is confident that “the legislature, being a responsible legislature, is going to take a look.”
For now, though, the Roes are happy that they “won’t have to go through what is essentially a step-parent—or second-parent—adoption.” And they’re hopeful that the rights they’ve been conferred will be “helping other people in the country” undergoing similar experiences in their families and the legal system.
#lgbtrights #lawyersaltlakecity #familylawyer
Daily reports on violence in the Middle East aren’t uncommon these days, especially with foreign policy debates under close scrutiny in light of the upcoming presidential election, but a family law attorney in Utah knows all too well that violence can be right here at home, and survivors of domestic disputes often bear the emotional scars of trauma similar to those who have been exposed to combat. But this is where the lawyers might be able to help—yes, you heard that right, as a new report in the Deseret News explores how “free or low-cost legal services for people seeking protective orders would reduce incidence of domestic violence and lower associated societal costs.”
If we’re honest with ourselves, we often think of domestic violence as an issue that affects mostly lower income families, but in reality, it knows little prejudice against socioeconomic status in the way aggression and violent tendencies are played out behind closed doors. The difference for people living in poverty is that when it comes to legal aid, many often have less power to hire a family law attorney in Utah for their protection against their own family members due to their lack of money.
This is where legal aid comes in. One report issued by the Institute for Policy Integrity found that not only are “victims more likely to receive protective orders if they have legal representation” but that “the availability of civil legal aid may be ‘even more effective than alternative interventions such as the provision of shelters and counseling services.’” A family law attorney in Utah probably had a hunch this is the case—indeed some have even flat-out stated, “We have intuitively known this for decades, and it’s heartening to see that studies confirm our belief that access to a free lawyer for victims of domestic violence truly does reduce the violence in our community.”
One legal aid center in Salt Lake City does one year post-protective order and injunction follow ups for their clients, and “ninety-one percent report there has been no further abuse and 95 percent report feeling safer.” But a good family law attorney in Utah know that their job doesn’t end there. In fact, a successful legal aid center should hand off clients to other services in the community after establishing for them the legal safe space and stability so that victims and family members can receive supportive counseling and job and housing help.
Access to protective orders is just the first step, though, as the report from the Institute for Policy Integrity suggests that the subsequent costs of domestic violence on society borne through the criminal justice system, ER services, social services, and department of education services are enormous—“in excess of $9.05 billion” annually. Their solution? That states and municipalities “should assess the evidence and consider adopting a policy granting domestic violence victims free or reduced-cost legal counsel in civil protective order proceedings. It will save money and a whole lot of heartache.
#familylaw #attorney #familylawyer
Earlier in the month Leon Rodriguez, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services came to Salt Lake City ad spoke in the Salt Palace before the League of United Latin American Citizens. But his speech left many wondering whether he simply said what he thought they wanted to hear rather than addressing some of the difficulties encountered by those pursuing Utah immigration issues on a more personal level.
Noting that 9 million people in America are already “legal permanent residents who are eligible to become U.S. citizens right now,” the nation’s big dog on immigration and naturalization was keen to point out for the audience’s benefit that “a quarter of those individuals are of Mexican heritage,” and that what holds so many of them back is fear of application for citizenship: “fear of the process itself, fear of the test, fear of the language requirement.” But was he a little too glib and enthusiastic when boasting before a crowd of thousands whose lives and livelihood depend on finding a confident path within Utah immigration matters to naturalization when he said those “fears can easily be overcome” with a little immigration education?
Some of the audience members thought so. But Rodriguez wasn’t done. He went on to speak about the big push by USCIS to encourage naturalization and integration and their efforts to reach out via “expanded ads, public-service announcements and new promotional materials in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese” to communicate his message to the community: obtaining citizenship empowers you.
But what about the undocumented immigrants? The obstacles they face are nearly insurmountable in comparison with those holding legal permanent resident status. Rodriguez addresses them too, speaking in Spanish and urging them not to lose hope: “We are going to arrive at a point where you will see an immigration law that will give us the path where you will be able to participate 100 percent in our society” as citizens. Unfortunately for those to whom the issue of Utah immigration and enforcement looms larger and more intimidating than next month’s rent, Rodriguez can’t elaborate when, or how, this might be possible.
Other changes that impact the community concerned with Utah immigration matters that Rodriguez addressed included the ability to pay by credit-card for naturalization fees with USCIS (What could be more American than that?) and improvements in Latino health and education that work to provide better health coverage for “all people in America, not just the privileged,” and raise educational standards by focusing “on the performance of students” and “closing achievement gaps.”
It may all sound wonderful, but it also may be pretty easy to make a speech that overlaps so many intersecting populations: not all of those needing immigration help in Utah are Latino, and there is hardly any evidence that the majority of Latinos in Utah are plagued by immigration concerns. Still, it must have a great morale boost to hear the director of the dreaded USCIS stand up before an audience and make a speech aimed at succor and solidarity, if you can believe it.
#immigration #immigrationlawyer #uscis
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