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Umarried couples and same sex couples have rights spelled out

Presenter Kay Madden talking to couples and defining their rights.
Legally speaking, it’s tough to know exactly what your rights are, but this is especially true for unmarried couples and same sex unions.

The Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, the Legal Studies Association and Missouri Western State University Pride Alliance tried to answer several of these questions Tuesday, March 29 in a seminar for couples rights, held in Agenstein room 124.

Kay Madden, J.D., a partner in the firm Slough, Connealy, Irwin, and Madden gave the presentation.

Madden was introduced by Dr. Joanne Katz, professor of legal studies. The legal seminar provided couple with information about how to protect their partners when they interact with the world, how to protect the partners assets upon death, the relationship itself, what happens when children are involved and dissolving the relationship.

“This topic is so important because there is no legal recognition for same sex relationships or people in opposite sex relationships that are unmarried in Kansas or Missouri,” Madden said.

Katz and Dr. David Tushaus, the department chair for criminal justice and legal studies, came up with the idea for this seminar after attending a different seminar. “This was brought to us by Dave Tushaus and we were glad to help,” Tamara Jackson, vice president of the legal studies association, said.

Madden did a question and answer period after every section of her presentation. The outline to the presentation and links to some of the cases she discussed will be posted on the O: drive. Some of what she discussed can be done without a lawyer.   

“I wish there had been more people here, but it was perfect for the size of the room,” Katz said.

There where over 25 people in attendance. “The turnout was amazing better than we thought it would be for the middle of the week,” Jackson said.

Madden suggested that all couples fill out a written durable power of attorney for health care, HIPAA authorization, living will, do not resuscitate order, right of sepulchre and a will. These documents are used to protect the rights and wishes of the partners and the couple.

“I should include in my written power of attorney that my partner can visit me,” Madden said. “You really have to think about those elemental types of things.”  Madden also explained how assets should be titled to protect the assets for the surviving partner in the case of death. The written power of attorney is available at Wilson hall room 204 they are also available at the Missouri Bar web site.

Madden discussed the use of domestic partnership agreements, and prenuptial agreements for couples.  These agreements are used to protect the partner’s assets in case of a break up.  If there is not an agreement then the couples have to go into arbitration, mediation or partition suits to settle the breakup. Madden stated that if anything is not jointly held the other partner is not entitled to it no matter how long the couple has been together. 

“I have to take these interpersonal relationships and translate them into this legalese the court will understand,” Madden said.

Madden discussed second parent adoptions, which are not allowed in Missouri. A second parent adoption is that there are two parents of the same gender on the birth certificate, but they do honor the second parent adoptions from other states. In the absence of a written agreement or contract, only the parent listed on the birth certificate has a legal right to see the child.

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