Even though many states are adopting laws that make same-sex marriage legal, some states do not have laws that allow for couples to adopt the biological child of a partner. If you are in a same-sex couple and you want to ensure your rights to your partner's biological child are protected regardless of your relationship status, you could face challenges. Here is what you need to know.
Can Both Couples Adopt the Child?
In some states, such as Colorado and Oregon, same-sex couples are legally allowed to adopt a partner's child. This means that the rights of both parents are protected regardless of relationship status. Even if the couple splits, each parent has rights to the child and a judge would view custodial and child support matters as he or she would if the couple were heterosexual.
However, some states, such as Texas and Mississippi, do not allow same-sex couples to adopt a partner's biological child. If you live in one of those states, you could be left without any rights to the child you helped raise.
How Can the Non-Biological Parent Gain Rights?
Unfortunately, in states in which the non-biological parent does not have rights, there is very little he or she can do to gain rights. In some states, there have been challenges to the law and some people have been successful in getting the court to agree that both partners are entitled to care for the child. For instance, in a Massachusetts ruling, a court ruled that one woman was entitled to parental rights of her ex-partner's child since she had helped to raise the child.
Even if your state does not have specific laws that allows joint adoption, you can take steps to help build your case for parental rights in the event that you and your partner break up. For instance, you and your attorney can draft a parenting agreement after the child is born or adopted. The agreement would outline both of your responsibilities and also serve as a blueprint of how to handle raising the child in the event your relationship ends.
This does not guarantee that you will have access to the child once the relationship ends, but it does help to show that you were a part of the child's life and seen as a parent. You and your attorney can also file a case in family court for visitation or custody of the child.
How successful you are can depend on a number of factors, including your state's current laws. However, you can improve your chances of winning by working with an experienced family attorney who is familiar with the challenges you could face. For more information, contact a family attorney at Harold Salant Strassfield & Spielberg.
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