Act 1 and the Arkansas Non-Cohabitation Statute
Though my personal experience with our antiquated non-cohabitation law is no where near as devastating as some of my close friends, those who have lost custody of their children all together, it has still instilled a fear within me that I never knew could exist.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in Arkansas with children from previous relationships, as of now, are in a lose, lose situation, completely.
Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe how Michelle and I felt when we got news that a circuit court judge in Little Rock struck down Act 1.
We’ve thus learned that it will be appealed; however even if it is declared unconstitutional by our Supreme Court and children are allowed to be adopted/fostered by co-habitating couples, there is nothing guaranteeing (even with the legal precedent being set) my friends and I will be protected or our families fully restored because situations such as ours, at this time, have no caveat.
What makes this even worse is, generally speaking, the great majority of us, cannot afford to fight for our kids because of the insane legal costs. And if you have a particularly angry, bitter and vindictive 3rd party taking you to court at every turn, you’re sunk.
In Arkansas the legal statute states that no person, gay or straight, can co-habitate with anyone that they are intimately involved with currently or EVER, in the presence of minor children.
So, if a 3rd party (for me it was my ex-husband) chooses to take you to court, you must choose between keeping your children, or sustaining a relationship.
Now…if you’re straight, this isn’t such an issue, you can get married and poof, you’re fine. But like us (and so many others in our circle of friends), we can’t legally marry our partners in Arkansas, nor can you marry in a state where same sex marriage is legal, come home and have it recognized. You are FORCED to choose.
As of today, I’ve been taken to court by my ex-husband two times in the attempt to change our custody agreement for our two children (6 & 12) from joint to giving him full custody. After the first time, I was given the option to have my partner of 2 years, Michelle, the most amazing, selfless and kind woman, who loves my kids as her own, either move out of our home, in less than a week, or lose my children.
The next day we had to rent the home across the street from our home, literally to give her a place to reside from 10pm-6am, the 2 weeks a month Ethan and Elizabeth are with us. She must leave our family each night, and return the following morning to have breakfast with us, and get everyone out the door.
This law is not only incredibly cruel, but damages so many children by making them believe that our families are not equal to others. My sincerest hope by all of us standing up and speaking out is that attention grows and with that change will come.
With Act 1 being overturned, I finally have hope for the first time in a long time…but we still have a long road ahead of us. I GIVE A DAMN and will do whatever I must to further the fight for complete equality.
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