For parents of transgender youth in Florida, the debate around access to gender-affirming medical care has become a multilayered legal dilemma that directly impacts child custody agreements.
With the state’s new ban on this care for minors facing ongoing constitutional challenges in court, there is considerable uncertainty around factors like medical decision-making authority and relocating for treatment access.
As an attorney assisting families through custody disputes for decades, I’ve seen firsthand how this issue has complicated things. When parents differ on what is best for their transgender child, custody battles often erupt over who has the final say on medical decisions.
Arguments arise over whether moving out of state briefly to obtain gender-affirming care should impact custody terms. With the ban’s legality still unresolved, it is a complex landscape to navigate.
In this article, I’ll discuss the key challenges the ban on gender-affirming care creates for child custody determinations and provide guidance on strategies families and attorneys can consider as they move forward.
Gender-affirming care encompasses a range of medical treatments and social support designed to help transgender and gender-diverse individuals live authentically under their gender identity.
This type of care affirms an individual’s sense of self and who they know themselves to be.
For transgender people diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a conflict between assigned gender at birth and gender identity, gender-affirming care can be critically important for overall health and well-being.
Numerous studies have found that access to appropriate care significantly reduces rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation among transgender populations.
These interventions are well-studied and endorsed by major medical associations as medically necessary, evidence-based care for those experiencing gender dysphoria.
Ongoing access to gender-affirming medical care is often essential for transgender individuals to improve mental health outcomes and lead fulfilling lives.
With many facets spanning the medical, psychological, and social realms, gender-affirming care aims to fully embrace and support transgender individuals seeking to live in their truth.
In 2023, Florida passed legislation making it a felony for doctors to provide treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers to anyone under 18 for the purpose of gender transition.
Almost immediately, a lawsuit was filed by three families challenging the constitutionality of this law.
In February 2023, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction preventing the state from enforcing the ban against the plaintiffs. However, the scope of protections remains ambiguous as the injunction did not clearly halt enforcement against all families.
Florida is expected to appeal this injunction, so for now, the ultimate legality of the ban remains unsettled. But even with the matter still working through courts, the law’s mere existence has already shaped family court proceedings across the state.
Given this climate, child custody cases (called parental responsibility in Florida) involving transgender youth have often become intensely contested battlegrounds between parents who differ over medical decision-making regarding gender-affirming treatments.
What if one parent strongly supports their child starting hormone therapy or puberty blockers, believing it is critically important for their child’s health and well-being? But the other parent opposes this, perhaps citing concerns over long-term impacts or Florida’s ban?
When parents reach such impasses, who should have the final say over whether a transgender minor can access potentially lifesaving care?
What if one parent opts to move out of state for a period solely to obtain gender-affirming treatment for their child that is prohibited in Florida? Should that choice impact custody determinations in any way?
With the ban’s legality ambiguous, there are no easy answers.
For parents who feel certain their transgender child needs access to gender-affirming medical care, having the strongest possible case is crucial, whether negotiating custody agreements outside court or litigating the matter before a judge.
Here are a few key tips:
While judges must consider the legal complexities, emphasizing the real-world impacts on your child’s health and happiness can go a long way.
Until the ban’s fate is fully resolved, I recommend closely tracking legal developments around the ban and speaking to an experienced family law attorney about your case. As appeals and decisions unfold, new options may emerge for your child.
At the intersection of family law and transgender rights, few issues strike so intimately at parents’ deepest hopes of protecting their children. As an attorney, I aim to provide both compassionate counsel and vigorous legal advocacy to ensure your child’s needs are prioritized in any custody agreement.
Florida’s vibrant transgender community deserves our state’s full support, and all families should have access to vital care. Though uncertainties lie ahead in the legal realm, there are also many reasons for hope.
If you need assistance navigating your child’s custody agreement in light of the complexities around gender-affirming medical care, please do not hesitate to reach out. My team at Vasquez de Lara Law Group is ready to help and discuss options for your specific situation. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.