In re the Marriage of Magnuson (Division III 2007)
Facts: Robbie and Tracy were married in 1985. Robbie is an attorney and Tracy is a surgeon. They have two children, Brian and Meredith. Brian was born in 1991; Meredith was born in 1998. Robbie decided to transition from male to female. Tracy filed for dissolution. The court found that both Robbie and Tracy were loving and good parents. Robbie left his job, but Tracy continues to work and has provided a healthy environment for her children. Robbie claims the court improperly took his transgender status into account when they made their decision to grant primary residential placement of the children to Tracy. He also claims the court erred in failing to follow the GAL recommendations. The court-appointed Guardian ad Litem found that both parents were equally fit and recommended a 50/50 shared parenting plan. Robbie informed the trial court that she intends to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.
Issue: Whether the court abused its discretion by not following the GAL’s recommendations and improperly focusing on Robbie’s transgender status when they made their decision regarding residential placement and granted residential placement of the parties’ two minor children to Tracy?
Rule: Just as it may not consider the sexual orientation of the parties, the trial court may not take one parent’s transgender status into account when deciding on parental fitness or suitability. The court should instead focus on the best interests of the children.
Held: The trial court did not err in granting the majority of residential time to Tracy. Court considered the needs of the child including the environmental and parental stability and those were the determining factors in the courts decision. Robbie’s transgender status was not the court’s focus. The trial court considered the child’s relationship with both parents and found the needs of the child would be better met if majority of residential time was granted to Tracy. The court did grant Robbie substantial residential time w/out limitations. The court is not bound by GAL recommendation. The courts ruling shows the factors in RCW 26.09.187 (3)(a)(i) were considered. * Under 26.09.187(3a) the greatest weight shall be given to the “relative strength, nature and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent” The court took these things into consideration when they made their determination.
Here, the trial court made a specific finding that the sexual reassignment surgery may be “disastrous” and have a negative impact on the children. Therefore, the trial court was affirmed. However, a dissenting opinion was filed arguing that the court was completely flouting its own holding and discriminating against Robbie based on her transgendered status and her intent to have sexual reassignment surgery.