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Special Needs Chapter Meeting

Virtual Event Virtual Event

January 9 @ 12:00 pm 1:30 pm EST

CLE Credits:

1 Credit General Law

Certification Credits:

1 Credit Marital & Family Law

1 Credit Juvenile Law

TITLE: Custody Considerations – Divorce and Transgender Youth

Presentation Description:

The presentation will discuss custody challenges faced by professionals working with the parents of a transgender youth, particularly where one parent affirms the child’s gender identity and the other parent does not.  It provides information regarding custodial considerations, the legal standard for judicial decision-making when the parents cannot agree, and the legal landscape regarding transgender issues in which judges make their custodial determinations.   

The presentation also provides basic information on what it means to be transgender, as well as information on the psychiatric and medical needs of transgender youth.  This includes the diagnosis of gender dysphoria contained in the DSM-5-TR, treatment approaches and currently-accepted best practices, and statistics regarding outcomes for transgender youth.  This information helps inform how to understand and present information to courts regarding the best interests of the child legal standard.    

The presentation ends by pulling together this information and suggesting ways to approach these cases with clients.

Key takeaways: 

  • The best interests of the child legal standard used by judges to make custody determinations is vague and vests enormous discretion in the hands of the trial court judge.  Judges and other court personnel lack sufficient knowledge in the area of gender-affirming care and need to be taught and guided by qualified and experienced experts.  Judges considering these issues are likely influenced by their own biases (perhaps unconsciously) and by local laws, practices and beliefs and it is therefore critical to have some understanding of the local environment and any prior rulings and to weigh these considerations against the benefits of having these issues resolved in court.   
  • Gender dysphoria is the official diagnosis for a person who is experiencing clinically significant distress due to the incongruence between their assigned gender and gender experience/expression.  Being transgender in and of itself is no longer considered a form of mental illness. 
  • Treatments for gender dysphoria include an affirming approach, referred to as gender-affirming care, and non-affirming approaches, referred to as conversion therapy and watchful waiting.  Best medical practice, as set forth by all mainstream medical providers, including the American Academy of Pediatricians, is the gender-affirming care model.   
  • Transgender youth suffer from a variety of bad outcomes, including high rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts, depression, stigma, bullying, and harassment, and the effects of these are greatly improved when the youth experiences family acceptance. 
  • Some ways practitioners can support their clients in getting the best outcomes possible, include educating themselves and their clients, building a qualified and experienced team of professionals to diagnose and create a treatment plan for the child, gather and maintain medical and other provider records and keep a gender journal, and identify and evaluate the options for resolving custody disputes in an effort to balance the child’s need for affirmation and gender affirming care with the risk of losing access to such care due to a court favoring the non-affirming parent due to bias, lack of sufficient information or local laws, beliefs and/or practices.

Speaker Bio:

Emily Malloy is an Attorney Licensed in New York State, a Licensed Master Social Worker in New York State, Family Law Mediator, CDC Certified Divorce Coach, CDC Certified Divorce Transition and Recovery Coach, CDC Certified Special Needs Coach, and DCA Certified Divorce Conflict Coach.  She is also a divorced co-parent to two teenagers, including a child with special needs.  She has professional training and life experience in the areas of divorce, addiction, gender diversity, and children with neurodiversity and other special needs.   

Before starting her own alternative dispute resolution practice, Emily was an associate attorney practicing corporate litigation at the law firms Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP and Wollmuth, Maher & Deutsch LLP.  After taking time off from the practice of law to parent her two children, Emily obtained a master’s degree from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.  Emily’s field of practice was Child Welfare:  Children, Youth and Families, an area devoted to providing the protection, assistance, and environment most necessary to promote a child’s well-being and full participation in family and community life.   

After directly experiencing the value of alternative dispute resolution through her own divorce process, Emily combined her areas of expertise to assist divorcing or separating individuals and couples.  Emily’s services include parent and divorce coaching, mediation, consulting attorney representation in mediations, and attorney representation in collaborative cases. 

Chapter Meeting

Chapter meetings occur monthly and are facilitated by the chapter leadership. In addition to networking and building relationships, each member has the opportunity to present an NADP Ed Talk and provide valuable divorce-specific education to their fellow chapter members.


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