What is the Status of Gay Adoption Rights?

Now that same-sex marriage is recognized throughout the country, even in those states where it was previously banned, what has been the effect on same-sex couples’ ability to create a family?  Are the laws addressing adoption and foster care equally applicable to gay couples now?  Can families with parents of the same sex expect the same treatment under the law as families with parents of opposite sexes?  The answer is a mixed bag.

A report from the Pew Charitable Trusts contains the good news that many states that formerly prohibited gay couples from adopting or fostering are changing their policies so that gay married couples at least are treated the same as straight married couples.  These states include Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, and South Dakota.

But we can see the other side of the coin in two cases that recently made national news.  In the first, the Alabama Supreme Court invalidated a gay woman’s parental relationship with the three children she had adopted with her former same-sex partner (the children’s birth mother) and raised since birth.  As the Reuters news service explains, the woman adopted the children in Georgia with her partner’s consent, but when the women separated, a custody dispute arose.  When the issue came before the Alabama court, that court refused to recognize the Georgia adoption, holding that the Georgia court did not have jurisdiction to grant it.  Reuters notes that in December 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the Alabama decision until the Court decides whether to hear the full case.

In the second instance, a Utah juvenile court judge ordered married same-sex foster parents to surrender custody of the one-year-old girl they had been fostering for the past three months and hoped to adopt.  Over the objections of the Utah Department of Children and Family Services, the judge instructed that the child should be sent to “a more traditional home.”  After an outcry, the judge rescinded the ruling and removed himself from the case.

The situation is no better in other states.  According to the Pew Charitable Trusts story, Mississippi still has on its books an outright ban on same-sex couples adopting foster children.  Although the law faces a court challenge, it is currently being followed unless and until the state legislature changes it.  And Michigan was one of the first states to enact a law allowing adoption agencies that contract with the state to refuse to work with any person or couple if it would conflict with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”  The Pew article notes that Alabama, Florida and Texas have considered similar laws, and that Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts and Illinois chose to close down rather than place children with gay couples, as required by the laws in those states.

Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer

If you and your same-sex spouse or partner are considering adopting or fostering a child, you should be aware that you may face many hurdles.  Your first step should be to visit with a family lawyer with experience helping same-sex couples cross these hurdles successfully.  Greenville Family Lawyer Robert A. Clark has the knowledge and compassion to assist with all your family law concerns.  Contact Greenville Family Law for a consultation today.

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