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Same-Sex Adoption

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What is the Status of Same-Sex Adoption in the United States?

In 2016, Mississippi’s ban on same-sex adoption was ruled unconstitutional, thereby making same-sex adoption legal in all 50 states. However, same sex couples may still face challenges when trying to adopt a child. For example, social workers may be hesitant when considering gay adoptive parents. The questions associated with how this non-traditional type of adoption might affect the child could dissuade the agency from proceeding. Some individual foster home agencies may also discriminate against same-sex adoption, as well as unmarried adults.

Research has shown that children living with same-sex parents fare just as well as children living in different-sex homes. As LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals are becoming more visible in society, the reservations social workers and others have toward same-sex adoption may be progressively changing.

If you are considering adoption as a same-sex couple, it is a good idea to consult an experienced attorney who can help protect your rights, and assist you in moving through the adoption process.

Can I Adopt a Child as an LGBT Individual?

Generally, singles face more hardship in adoption than married couples, regardless of sexual orientation. It is possible to adopt a child, but be prepared to face more scrutiny. 

Can We Adopt a Child If We Are a Same-Sex Couple?

Yes, you are eligible to adopt a child as a same-sex couple. The path in doing so will not be easy, and can require a lot of time, money, and persistence. In California, it is estimated that over 16 thousand children are living with same-sex parents, and on average, gay and lesbian couples adopt at a slightly higher rate than married heterosexual couples.

It is important to note, that a child born into a same-sex marriage is not always presumed to be the child of the other spouse. An adoption may be necessary to protect the rights of the other spouse. Same-sex adoption can be done, and a family law lawyer can help.

What Types of Adoption Are There?

There are four types of adoption typically used in same-sex adoption, and include:

  • Single-parent adoption - An individual, whether part of a couple or not, is the legal parent of the child. If in a relationship, the other partner will have no legal rights.
  • Joint adoption - A couple adopts a child, and both have legal parental rights. Very few states allow unmarried couples to adopt jointly.
  • Stepparent adoption - The most common type of adoption, which allows the spouse of the child’s biological or previous adoptive parent to petition to adopt.
  • Second-parent adoption - Allows a parent who is not married to the legal parent of the child, to adopt without the “first” legal parent losing any parental rights.

States vary on adoption laws, and continue to change. It is a good idea to consult a professional to discuss your best course of action before proceeding.

Open Versus Closed Adoption

Open adoptions allow the biological parents to have some form of contact with the child. In closed adoptions, there is no contact. Thinking about your comfort level with biological parent involvement is an important point to consider before petitioning for adoption. 

Where Can I Go to Begin the Adoption Process?

Adoptions take place through several means, both public and private. Public adoption agencies are government-funded and typically place children who are living in foster care or are part of the welfare system into new homes. Private adoption agencies are funded by fees paid by adoptive families, and most frequently place newborns as well as international children with new families.

Independent adoption is another option, and typically involves working with an adoption attorney or other intermediary, rather than an adoption agency. There are also several resources available online, specifically designed to educate and assist birth parents, adoptive parents, as well as the community about same-sex adoptions and parenting.

An Exception: Adoption from Some Faith-Based Agencies

Unfortunately, some private, faith-based adoption agencies can deny same-sex couples adoption, and continue to do so. A few states have enacted laws, most recently, Alabama in May, 2017, that allow faith-based agencies to discriminate against gay parents or other households, based on religious grounds.

Should I Contact an Attorney About a Same-Sex Adoption?

Adoption can pose many obstacles for same-sex couples. If you are considering this type of adoption, a family law attorney can assist you in deciding which adoption option is best suited for you, as well as developing your best course of action.

Photo of page author Sarah Tipton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 04-23-2018 11:40 PM PDT

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