Ben, 51 and Drake 52, have been together for 15 years. Ben, a corporate lawyer, earns a good income, considerably more than Drake, who is a high school teacher. They decided to adopt a child and because Ben had the higher income, he became the adoptive parent of Max, who is now 8. They always meant to do a second parent adoption, but never got around to it. They own a brownstone in Brooklyn jointly, but Ben put in the down payment, and they shared the monthly expenses. Once Max came along, the men decided that Drake would become a stay at home dad and take responsibility for raising Max as well as caring for the family home and Ben would be the sole financial support. This was working quite well until the couple decided their relationship was not working and they decided to split.
They sought Collaborative Practice as they wanted an amiable separation and each wanted time with Max. Ben decided that since he was the legal parent, he should have full custody and give Drake visitation. Drake wanted to do the second parent adoption and wanted joint legal custody. If the couple had been married, both would have automatically been legal parents and the discussion would have been different.
In terms of the house, Ben wanted Drake to leave and felt he owed Drake nothing as Ben had paid most of the expenses. If the couple had been legally married, Ben would have received the benefit of the down payment, but the house would have been considered marital property and subject to laws of equitable distribution. Drake was seeking some financial support as he had not worked for years, and had been the stay at home dad and the family homemaker. He also was seeking a financial settlement for what he saw as his share of the house. Ben felt Drake should just get a job and he did not think Drake was entitled to a financial settlement regarding the house. As they were not married, Drake had no legal rights to spousal maintenance.
In this case, a team approach utilized a coach to help deal with the emotional issues that arose and helped the men communicate more effectively. A child specialist assisted with helping them see that a joint parenting plan was not only possible but also good for their son, and Ben is considering going forward with the second parent adoption. A financial neutral untangled their financial life and helped Ben and Drake work out a financial settlement that will help Drake as he gets back into the workforce. The Collaborative practitioners’ awareness of gay and lesbian issues was essential for the success of this separation and the Collaborative process helped the couple to consider the needs of their son and recognize the value of each other’s contribution to their family.