Same-Sex Couples Can Adopt In All 50 States

May 28, 2016

On March 31, 2016, in Campaign for Southern Equality, et al. v Mississippi Department of Human Services, et. al. US District Judge Daniel Jordan III issued an injunction blocking Mississippi from enforcing its 16-year-old anti-gay adoption law. Mississippi was the last state that had such law; meaning that SAME-SEX COUPLES CAN NOW ADOPT IN ALL 50 STATES.

This ruling is celebrated among family law practitioners as we have long desired to have all families legally recognized; however; it doesn’t retroactively give legal rights to the parents who were denied the right to adopt in the past. In light of the recent change in laws, we are seeing a rise in clients seeking to have their family recognized for purposes of parental rights, health insurance, taxes, and estate planning.

If the children were adopted prior to the marriage of a same-sex couple, then the couple can together file a Petition for a Step-Parent Adoption, meaning the child(ren) would be adopted by the other partner. Thus, the partner would now have the same legal rights to parent the child(ren) as their partner.

If the parties were married prior to one partner’s adoption of a child, then the other partner may have a case for parental rights through the Doctrine of Equitable Parent. The doctrine, in short, allows a parent to petition the court to be considered a natural parent of the child: (1) if the child was born or conceived through marriage; (2) the parent and child mutually acknowledge a relationship as parent and child or the other parent has cooperated in the development of such a relationship over a period of time prior to the filing of the Complaint for Divorce; (3) the partner desires to have the rights afforded to a parent; and (4) the partner is willing to take on the responsibility and pay child support. Stankevich v Milliron, Michigan Court of Appeals, No.310710, November 19, 2015.

The Michigan Vital Records Office allows a second parent to add their name to any birth certificate if the child was born after the date of a legal marriage to two women. While this is a step, I caution clients not to rely on this alone to establish parental rights for the second (non-legal parent) as birth certificates do not alone give parental rights.

We’re in this together, your family and ours. Please contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.