At Bivek Brubaker & Prescott LLC, one of the most joyous aspects of our work is when we get to help clients grow their families through adoption. For LGBTQ couples, however, the adoption process can pose uncertainties and additional legal questions. While same-sex couples have the legal right to marry in Georgia and in all other states based on the United States Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, this case did not address the right for LGBTQ couples to adopt. Unfortunately, there are no clear gay adoption laws. As such, it is critical to have an experienced same-sex adoption lawyer guiding you through the process and protecting your parental rights every step of the way.
Many LGBTQ couples pursue joint adoption, meaning neither parent is biologically related to the child. There are a few ways of doing this, including:
Unfortunately, international adoption is often a challenge for same-sex couples because of restrictions placed by other countries. That means most LGBTQ couples choose domestic adoption, either from private agencies or from the foster system. If you choose to work with an agency, you’ll want to ask about their success rate with other same-sex couples. If they’re not well-equipped to handle your family’s needs—or worse, if they try to avoid placing children into same-sex households—you’ll find better results through other agencies.
Your family law attorney can help you navigate the joint adoption process from the start, addressing unique challenges along with those any couple might face, like the birth father’s rights, the birth mother’s right to change her mind for a limited period, and the extra paperwork that comes with out-of-state adoptions.
Same-sex couples may also pursue adoptions where the child is biologically related to one parent or has already been adopted by one parent. The latter scenario was the norm before the legalization of gay marriage, and it’s still common among unmarried same-sex couples, or in cases where one partner adopts a child while single.
Second parent adoption also applies to surrogacy and donor births. Lesbian couples may sometimes choose to have one partner give birth using donor sperm, while gay male couples sometimes use a surrogate to have a child, with one biologically related father and a donor egg.
Even if both parents’ names are listed on the birth certificate, it’s important for the non-biologically related parent to pursue second parent or stepparent adoption to fully protect parental rights. Adoption in one state must be recognized in another, making it the surest way to avoid complications from conflicting state laws. It also offers protection if the couple eventually splits, or if the biological parent dies and their family attempts to seek custody.
An LGBTQ adoption lawyer can help navigate you through the process of second parent or stepparent adoption (some Georgia counties, for example, will not do second parent adoptions). You’ll want to choose an attorney who will represent your family’s interests and understand the challenges you face as you create the family you hope for.