Second Parent Adoption: LGBTQ Edition

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What is Second Parent Adoption?

As defined by the Human Rights Campaign, “a second-parent adoption allows a second parent to adopt a child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights. In this way, the child comes to have two legal parents. It also typically grants adoptive parents the same rights as biological parents in custody and visitation matters.”

Very often people hear of second parent adoption when referring to step-parents adopting their spouse’s children from previous relationships. However, second parent adoption can occur for other parents as well.

What does Second Parent Adoption mean for LGBTQ couples?LGBT ISTOCK - LGBT FAMILY 2 (1) cropped

Second parent adoption gives the same parental rights to both parties in same-sex parenting. Take for example a lesbian couple. One is pregnant and gives birth to their child through a variety of avenues such as artificial insemination. The other does not have biological ties to the child in such a case, but through second parent adoption would have the rights of the biological parent.

The HRC explains… “for same-sex couples, it is often the case that there is only one legal parent even though two people may equally parent the child and think of themselves as co-parents. This is because the status as a legal parent is automatically conveyed to the parent who has a biological connection to a child, such as a biological mom or biological dad. Similarly, while some couples raise an adopted child together, only one of them may have officially become the adoptive parent because some agencies prohibit same-sex couples from adopting together but permit an LGBTQ individual to do so.”

According to FamilyEquality.org:

  • “Parents in legally recognized same-sex relationships can petition for stepparent adoption statewide; relies on access to marriage or relationship recognition in 50 states + D.C.”
  • “LGBT parents can petition for second-parent adoption statewide in 15 states + D.C.”

aa-male-gay-coupleWhile many second parent adoptions with same-sex parents involve a biological tie to the child, it is not always the case. Some states allow one parent to adopt a child they are not biologically related to. Then, the other parent can pursue second parent adoption. Other states allow same-sex couples to go through the process together from start to finish.

See more on standards for each state on this interactive map.

Second parent adoption allows both individuals the same rights as parents.

What is the Process for Second Parent Adoption?

Different states have different laws and procedures regarding second parent adoption. You can find out more about the process of your state here.

Is Second Parent Adoption Necessary or Fair for LGBTQ families?

Many people feel that their marriage/partnership and dedication to the child and home is what makes them a parent, not an official adoption. While many adoption agencies and professionals would agree this to be true, a second parent adoption can ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

In emergency cases that would leave the person who is the legal parent unable to care for the child, their partner would be able to continue caring for the child and retain legal rights as their parent. Second parent adoption also protects the rights of both partners in instances of separation or divorce. Or even the extreme case of death.

Adoptions From The Heart, a non-profit adoption agency headquartered in PA, saw this need first hand. Two same-sex couples hoping to adopt petitioned for the state to allow second parent adoption so that they could pursue a secure adoption through what was already an LGBTQ friendly agency. Of these families, one did end up losing a parent in a horrible plane crash. Thankfully, there were standards in place to keep the children safe with their other parent. You can read more about the couple and their journey here.

Although the label may feel unnecessary and even degrading, it can ensure the stability of your family and home. Second parent adoption is hopefully only the beginning for progressive parental rights for LGBTQ couples.

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