Second parent adoption, also referred to as co-parent adoption or stepparent adoption, is the process where two parents, one who is a legal parent and one who is a legal stranger, create a permanent and legal relationship between the child and both parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports same-sex second parent adoption, and explains these reasons for insuring both parents have legal rights:
Children deserve to know that their relationships with both of their parents are stable and legally recognized. This applies to all children, whether their parents are of the same or opposite sex.
When two adults participate in parenting a child, they and the child deserve the serenity that comes with legal recognition.
Denying legal parent status through adoption to co-parents or second parents prevents these children from enjoying the psychologic and legal security that comes from having two willing, capable, and loving parents.
New Hampshire has allowed second parent adoption for same-sex couples who are married since 2007, where previously only opposite sex spouses or single persons could adopt. This change came about with the recognition in New Hampshire of civil unions in January 2008, and eventually same-sex marriage in January 2010. It is important to remember that in New Hampshire the parents must be married. Some hospitals in New Hampshire will list a married same-sex couple as co-parents on the birth certificate of their child.
However, even with both parents listed on the birth certificate, it is still important to seek an adoption by the non-bio parent. Marriage entitles a non-biological parent to a presumption of parenthood, but that presumption is rebuttable. In other words, parenthood could be contested, and without solidifying parental rights and responsibilities with an adoption, the non-biological parent is vulnerable. Second, most other states do not recognize same-sex marriage, and legal parenthood gained by marriage for a same-sex partner may not be acknowledged in a different state. Adoption creates a binding court decree that is recognized by all states, whether passing through or moving to.
The second parent adoption will protect the child’s right to inheritance, health insurance, social security benefits and child support. The adoptive parent will have enforceable rights of custody and visitation, and parental rights and responsibilities in the event the biological parent passes away, regardless of the jurisdiction the family resides in. Additionally, when an emergency medical decision needs to be made for the child, the adoptive parent will have the ability to make the decision.
- Adoption Questions & Answers, GLAD
- Second Parent Adoptions in Massachusetts, GLAD
- Co-Parent Adoption: A Guide for Same-Sex Couples in Massachusetts, GLBT Law Blog