Adoption by Gay and Lesbian Parents

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Most Common Family Law Issues:

Can I Adopt a Child as a Gay or Lesbian Person?

In general, yes. In almost all states, same-sex married couples can jointly adopt. As of October 2015, Mississippi remains the only state that denies same-sex married couples joint adoptions. In all states, individuals can adopt regardless of their sexual orientation. Some of the obstacles to adoption have been removed by recent decisions in favor of gay rights, including the legalization of marriage. However, same-sex couples may still face unique challenges and issues with regard to adoption.

Styles of Adoption

There are several different types of adoption to choose from, and which one you choose will depend on your relationship status and other factors. The types of adoption include:

A single parent adoption is where an individual adopts a child, as opposed to a couple adopting a child. A single parent adoption can occur if there are other adults living with the adoptive parent. The downside to single parent adoption is that in a couple, the non-adoptive member of the couple has no legal rights over the adopted child. This lack of rights can have an impact on employee benefits, such as health insurance, and could also cause problems with custody if the couple splits up.

A joint adoption is where two adults who have a legal relationship to one another (typically marriage) adopt a child together. This type of adoption gives the two parents equal legal rights in terms of the child. This type of adoption will probably become more common in the LGBT community now that same-sex marriage is legal.

A stepparent adoption occurs when one partner is already the legal parent of a child and then marries. The new spouse can apply to become the stepparent of the child.

A second-parent adoption is where an unmarried couple jointly adopts a child who is already the child of one of them, or who has been placed with the couple jointly by the state or an agency. Due to the fact that the second parent is an unmarried partner, their custody and visitation rights may be limited in certain states if the relationship ends. Second-parent adoption is only allowed in 15 states and the District of Columbia.

Where Are Homosexual Couples Not Allowed to Adopt?

Currently, adoption by same-sex couples is only illegal in Mississippi. This ban is being challenged in court by prospective adoptive parents. All other states allow these adoptions. However, it should be noted that there are now a number of states that allow faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate based on sexual orientation, even if they are state-licensed agencies.

Can My Partner and I Adopt a Child In One State Then Move to Another State?

This depends greatly on what type of adoption you have pursued. States are legally required to recognize same-sex marriages, but not same-sex adoptions. A single-parent, stepparent, or joint adoption should be recognized in almost all states. However, because second parent adoption is unavailable in 35 states, how it is recognized may vary.

Do I Need an Attorney to Adopt?

Due to the complexity of the adoption process, especially for gays and lesbians, it would be wise to consult with a lawyer. Speaking with a family attorney will help you understand your rights and options, and preserve any possible remedies you may have.

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Last Modified: 11-06-2015 10:04 AM PST

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