A second-parent adoption permits an unmarried or married partner to adopt the child of his or her partner, without terminating the rights of the consenting parent. The need for a second-parent adoption can arise where only one partner is biologically related to a child, or where one partner previously adopted a child. Adoption creates and secures the legal parental relationship – and it will be recognized in all states.
Second-parent adoptions are particularly important for same-sex couples. Some states will not allow both partners or spouses in a same-sex couple to adopt jointly. If the couple is pursuing surrogacy, some states will not place both spouses’ or partners’ names on a judgment of parentage. In these situations the only way for the other parent to guarantee his or her legal relationship to the child is through a second-parent adoption.
In New York, the non-biological mother in a married lesbian couple can have her name placed on their child’s birth certificate along with the biological mother’s. The non-biological parent’s parental rights flow from their marriage – a marriage which is not recognized in all states. In order to guarantee her legal relationship should the family move or travel out of a marriage recognition state, she must complete a second-parent adoption.
When a biological or legal parent marries, or remarries, the new spouse can formalize his or her relationship with the children by completing a stepparent adoption. If the other legal parent consents, or is deceased, this is a clear-cut process. However, if the other legal parent does not consent, a court must find grounds to terminate the other parent’s legally recognized relationship to the child.
Brian can help you determine whether a second-parent or stepparent adoption is advisable in your particular situation, and guide you seamlessly through the process.