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Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

The unfortunate truth is that current Florida law is not conducive to recognizing the relationships that develop in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.  However, there are steps that Florida and Tampa Bay LGBT parents can take to boost the recognition of their parental rights.

Adoption

If LGBT parents are committed to raising a child together and recognizing each parent’s rights, I highly recommend that partners consider adopting each other’s children.  This helps form an unbreakable legal bond between the children and each partner.  Though the law is not completely settled in this area, the judges in Hillsborough County (including Tampa) are granting adoptions by LGBT partners.  What’s more, an adoption attorney located in Hillsborough County (such as myself) can help Florida parents come before Hillsborough County judges no matter where in Florida the parents live.

Co-Parenting Agreements

Co-parenting agreements can be great evidence that LGBT partners intend to parent children together.  It can boost the argument that “psychological parenting,” or the formation of a parent-like relationship between a child and a non-legal parent, has occurred and make it or more likely that parental rights will be recognized by Florida’s legal system.

Hyphenated or Unified Last Names

A hyphenated or unified last name can go a long way in demonstrating to the Florida legal system that partners intended to raise children together.  For example, if partner 1 is named Jones, and partner 2 is named Smith, it would be helpful to have all partners and children’s last names hyphenated or unified, so that everyone has a last name of Jones-Smith, Smith-Jones, Smones, Jith, etc.  Florida has laws to aid in legal name changes.

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If You Want a Legal Name Change in Florida, Know Thyself

Florida permits most people who want to change their legal name to do so, but there are some hoops to jump through.

You must file a legal document, known as a petition, in the circuit court of the county in which you reside.  The petition must include extensive information regarding you and your history, including all addresses at which you have lived since birth. 

In other words, before filing the petition, you must know thyself, and gather all appropriate information about you.

Keep in mind that you will likely have to go through a background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, so it is best to be as thorough and up front in the petition as possible.

A judge will review your petition, and he or she may require you to appear in court and provide testimony about the request to change your name.  This is mainly done to ensure that you are not requesting the change for an illegal or ulterior purpose.

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Where In Tampa Bay Can I Get Fingerprinted For My Legal Name Change?

If you want to get your legal name changed in Florida, and you are not getting married or divorced, you will probably need to submit fingerprints for a state and national background check.  Pursuant to Florida Statute section 68.07, the fingerprints must be submitted electronically, and they will be reviewed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

So where do you submit fingerprints electronically?

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Correcting Your Birth Certificate in Florida

Since the passage of the Federal REAL ID Act of 2005, more and more Florida residents are finding that they cannot renew their Florida Driver’s License because the name printed on their birth certificate or social security card does not match the name they have been using.

It could be because they assumed the use of a name without changing any of their official  documents.  It could be because of a spelling error on the birth certificate or social security card. Or it could be because they have unknowingly been going by a name different from the name printed on their birth certificate.  These problems can usually be corrected by petitioning for a legal change of name.

Here’s an example:  I had a client whom I will refer to as “Jane Smith.”    She was born in New York, and now she lives in Pasco County, Florida.  She’s been known her whole life as Jane Smith, her parents always called her Jane Smith, and so, for good reason, she thought her name was Jane Smith.

One day, Jane helps her mother clean out her attic.  While going through some boxes, Jane finds a New York birth certificate for a “Jamie Smith.”  What is more, Jamie Smith’s date of birth is listed as one day earlier than the day Jane Smith has been celebrating her birthday.

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Rights Recognized in Tampa’s Domestic Partnership Registry

As President Obama today expressed his support for gay marriage, the State of Florida continues to define marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” leaving homosexuals in loving relationships in a state of legal limbo.  Attempting to fill in the gap, many local county and municipal governments are passing “domestic partnership registries” which codify certain rights to heterosexual and homosexual partners.  Tampa, for one, has passed an ordinance creating a domestic partnership registry.

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

[Related:  In A Florida Child Custody Case, Does It Matter That I Am Gay?]

[Related:  In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?]

Tampa’s domestic partnership law recognizes the following rights for registered partners (to the extent that these rights are not superseded by other laws or ordinances or by contract):

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Man Legally Changes His Name To Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop Bop-Bop

Different names sound strange to different people.  I have come across names, both foreign and domestic, that I sometimes have trouble pronouncing.  But this one is a doozey: Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop Bop-Bop.

Beezow, a Wisconsin man formerly known as Jeffrey Drew Wilschke, has not had much success since his name change: According to CBS News, Mr. Bop-Bop was recently arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a probation violation.  This has led to an outcry for the freedom of Beezow, including the following clip:

So, in Florida could you legally change your name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop Bop-Bop?  You may be surprised, but the answer is…probably yes.

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New York Recognizes Gay Marriage. Do Floridians Have Options?

Beginning July 24, 2011, gay couples in New York will be able to apply for a marriage license.  This will make New York the sixth and largest state to recognize gay marriage.

Florida, unlike New York, does not permit gay marriage, nor does it recognize civil unions.  But there are things that partners can do to symbolize their love for one another and create certain rights and responsibilities.  You just have to be creative.

Let me give you an example.  One of the services that my firm offers is that we represent clients in name change matters.  I have heard all different reasons why a client wants a name change, including that he or she (a) has done some things he or she is not proud of and wants to turn a new leaf, (b) wants to take on the qualities of a religious or historical figure by taking on part of that figure’s name, and (c) simply does not like his or her name.

One day, a young woman came in for a consultation, and she had a touching story to tell me.  She said that she had been dating her partner for several years, and that they wanted to get married.  But, of course, Florida does not permit gay marriage.  However, this woman decided to declare her love and commitment by legally taking on her partner’s last name.  I was able to guide her through the judicial process of symbolically affirming her dedication to her partner through a name change.

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Video: Ron Artest Filed to Change His Name. How Do You Change Your Name?

As discussed by the video below, NBA player Ron Artest has filed to change his name to Meta World Peace:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsKIao4HrJA

So how do you legally change your name in Florida?

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Video: Name Change

The following video from lawinfo.com discusses name changes:

In Florida, name changes are governed by section 68.07 of the Florida Statutes.

A person can file for a change of name in the circuit court of the county where he or she resides.  Within the petition, which must be signed under oath, the person needs to make sure that he or she has provided all of the required information, including the following:

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Name Change: Where do I petition?

If you are looking to legally change your name you may be wondering:  Where do I file a petition?  Do I have to go to Tallahassee?  Do I file in the circuit court of the county where I was born?  Can I request that a circuit court in the county where I live change my name?

Section 68.07, Florida Statutes, and relevant case law, provides an answer…

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