A Philadelphia family lawyer has been tapped to lead the national LGBT Family Law Institute.
Tiffany Palmer, a founding partner at Jerner & Palmer, is the newest director of the institute, the Washington, D.C.-based organization announced Tuesday. She has agreed to hold the position for two years, she said, taking over for Portland, Maine, lawyer Zack Paakkonen.
The institute is a joint venture of the National LGBT Bar Association and the National Center for Lesbian Rights. It was formed in 2009 as a networking platform for family lawyers who focus on LGBT issues.
Family law “varies from state to state, so sharing those resources helps everyone represent their clients,” Palmer said.
Family lawyers who often deal with LGBT issues in their practice meet at an annual conference and at regional meetings, Palmer said, where they can share strategies and briefs, as well as refer work to their colleagues in other states. Institute membership is vetted, Palmer said, so clients can be sure they’re connecting with a qualified lawyer.
Palmer has been a member of the institute since its founding, she said, and the state of the law on LGBT issues has changed quite a bit since then, particularly when same-sex marriage became legal across the United States in 2015. While that ruling settled one big question in LGBT family law, dozens of others have arisen since.
“I’m really excited to be the director at this time to lead this institute in a post-marriage-equality world,” Palmer said. “The number one issue really is parental rights … of LGBT families who are in marital relationships and nonmarital relationships.”
It’s a topic that has long raised questions for family lawyers. For instance, Palmer represented amici in a 2001 case that considered whether a child’s nonbiological parent could be considered in loco parentis.
But related questions continue to bubble up regularly, Palmer said, like a case decided Tuesday in Arizona over whether a same-sex spouse is the legal parent of a child conceived through assisted reproduction with whom the spouse doesn’t share genes.
Palmer focuses about 75 percent of her practice on LGBT family law, she said. The rest of her work deals with assisted reproduction, including a recent high-profile case in Pennsylvania in which a celebrity challenged the enforceability of her surrogacy contract. Palmer said she plans to continue practicing law while serving as the institute’s director.