Choosing to expand your family should be an exciting, moving experience, not a troubling one. Unfortunately, the adoption process can be extremely complicated and even problematic, especially for LGBT individuals and couples. Even as our country has taken steps towards equality, there are still several ways in which gay or lesbian couples could face hardships while trying to become parents. If you are LGBT and are interested in pursuing the adoption process, make sure you know what to anticipate and how to prepare yourself for the next step.
The Adoption Process
The adoption process can be difficult for any individual or couple. Finding an agency and ensuring that you have all the appropriate paperwork and qualifications can be tough, but gay and lesbian couples might sometimes face another set of challenges.
There are many different ways in which LGBT individuals or couples may choose to expand their family or adopt. A lesbian couple may choose to use an egg donor to become pregnant, and the partner who did not carry the child might choose to adopt him or her through a stepparent or second parent adoption. Or, gay men might decide to use a surrogate and egg donor to have a child, followed by an adoption. Individuals or couples may use any combination of these new options, or may choose instead to go through with a more traditional adoption process. In any case, it is important to pay attention to state and local laws in order to better understand your rights as an adoptive parent.
In 2015, same-sex marriage was legally recognized by the Supreme Court, which then made it easier for many LGBT couples to adopt after they were married. However, many couples who did not wish to marry still faced difficulty adopting because some areas only allow married couples to adopt.
The rights of adoptive parents often vary from state to state, as do the adoption laws themselves. Some states don’t allow gay or lesbian couples to participate in joint adoptions, while others prevent any “homosexual” person from adopting a child at all. Other states, however, are much more welcoming to LGBT parents. In Missouri, state laws allow any person to adopt and also permit second-parent adoptions in most lower courts. However, the process can still be complex and should involve the help of an experienced adoption attorney.
Understanding Your Rights
Even after the adoption has taken place, it can sometimes be difficult to establish parental rights as a same-sex couple. If one parent has a biological attachment (egg donor, sperm donor, or birth mother), the other parent will need to participate in a second parent adoption in order to assert his or her legal rights as a parent. Contrarily, when heterosexual married parents have a child, the child is automatically presumed to belong to both of them.
If heterosexual parents divorce, both parents have parental rights, however, the same might not be said for all same-sex parents. In order to assert the authority of both parents, LGBT parents should always participate in a joint adoption or pursue a second-parent adoption to prevent the parent with the legal rights from taking full custody if the parents should ever divorce or separate.
Contact Smith Law Offices, LLC to discuss your adoption case with our St. Charles family law attorneys.