There are nearly 600,000 same-sex couple households in the United States, and more than 100,000 of them have children. Adoptions by LGBTQ people have risen sharply in the last decade; same-sex couples in the U.S. are now raising at least 22,000 children. That trend is expected to continue, and researchers estimate that there are two million LGBTQ people who are interested in adoption, but many face challenges that make it difficult.
Everyone should be treated equally under the law, but same-sex couples often face uneven challenges. Fortunately, states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have enacted laws that explicitly allow same-sex partners to petition for second-parent adoptions. Still, these parents-to-be often experience difficulties that opposite-sex couples do not. They may even have less options available to them. Public adoption agencies generally adhere to the spirit of the law, but that isn’t necessarily the case with:
- International adoption
- Private agency placement
- Independent and open adoption
A PA adoption lawyer can ease this process for anyone seeking to adopt regardless of sexual orientation. Nevertheless, representation in these scenarios may be particularly important because an attorney will understand all of your rights, recognize when they’re being infringed upon and be aware of what recourse is available to you. Often, simply knowing your rights and being able to express them is enough to cease incidental and even intentional discrimination.
The Rights of Legal Parents
When an opposite-sex couple has a child, the second parent—the man—is automatically presumed to be the child’s legal guardian. This isn’t necessarily the case with same-sex couples, and it’s often necessary for the second parent to adopt the child through a legal procedure, such as a stepparent adoption or domestic partner adoption. An adoption lawyer can assist you in this scenario but also in advance of the birth.
Even after the adoption process is complete, there are still measures to take to protect your rights as a parent. This is why having a PA adoption lawyer through all stages of the adoption process is beneficial.
Something else you may need to consider is what happens if you or your partner choose to dissolve the union. When a traditional marriage is dissolved, both parents have an obvious right to a child that they both adopted. This isn’t necessary the case in same-sex unions, and an adoption attorney can help ensure that both parents have the same rights and duties.
If a judge needs to determine if a person is a de facto parent, the judge will usually make that determination based on:
- The length of the relationship
- Whether the child lived with the couple
- Any joint-parenting steps that demonstrate intent
- Parenting agreements and similar documents
Parenting agreements are a useful step for all couples who intend to adopt children. This is especially true for same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples not in a legal union, such as marriage. A parenting agreement is a contract drawn up by both partners. You don’t need a lawyer to create a legally binding parenting agreement, but a lawyer can help ensure that both parents are explicitly asserting the parental rights and duties that they want.
Navigating the Adoption Process
Many people aren’t prepared for how involved an adoption can be. It can be a time-consuming and challenging endeavor—and that’s true even for opposite-sex couples. Once you and your partner have progressed beyond the emotional journey of deciding to adopt and committing to it, it’s a good time to choose an attorney.
In the United States, an adoption home study is required before you’re even eligible to adopt, and your lawyer can assist you with this as well as other requirements and resources. From there, your lawyer can help connect you with the various adoption sources. In cases where profiles are required, the right advice can be invaluable in positioning yourselves to be attractive candidates to the birth parent or parents.
Whether you’re an individual aiming to adopt or part of an opposite-sex or same-sex couple that wants to bring a child into their lives, a PA adoption lawyer can make a big difference. Your attorney can help you navigate the system and save time and money in the process. You can reach the law office of Cofsky & Zeidman toll-free at (856) 429-5005. If you are local to our Philadelphia location, please call us at (215) 563-2150.