Jan. 6, 2015, was a good day for the LGBT community here in Fort Lauderdale and across the state. That's the day that same-sex marriage became legal across the state. Perhaps you and your partner decided to take the plunge and get married. Now, you want to enlarge your family with the addition of a child.
In 2010, the Florida Supreme Court declared a decades old statute that discriminated against LGBT people when it came to adoption as unenforceable and unconstitutional. Therefore, you can now take advantage of one of several avenues of adoption.
You can adopt a child in the following ways depending on your particular circumstances:
- Joint adoption: Since same-sex marriage became legal, couples may adopt a child as a couple.
- Single adoption: One of you could either use a private adoption service or go through the Florida Department of Children and Families to adopt a child.
- Second-parent adoption: If you and your parent remain unmarried, you may use second-parent adoption to gain parental rights of a child. The adoption process under these circumstances is lengthy and more complicated than in a stepparent adoption. If marriage is imminent, you may decide that waiting until after marriage would make more sense.
- Stepparent adoption: If one of you already has a biological or adopted child, the other may adopt that child as a stepparent.
Do not believe that since you are married, you each have legal parental rights to a child with which you share no biological connection. Just as would be the case for an unmarried father in an opposite-sex relationship, you do not have legal parental rights as a non-biological parent without a court order. In this example, the unmarried father would go to court to establish paternity, but in your case, you would adopt the child in order to gain parental rights.
If you and your partner are married at the time a child is born to one of you, the state allows both your names to appear on the birth certificate. However, this does not necessarily guarantee you full parental rights. The only way to make sure you receive full parental rights is through adoption.
Numerous other considerations require you attention depending on your situation. For instance, using a sperm donor brings up questions regarding the man's parental rights. Does the method of insemination make a difference in the termination of parental rights? If you plan to have more children, should you wait to adopt all of them at once?
The answers to these questions and others could affect how you proceed. Considering the fact that your status as a parent is on the line, you may want to gain an understanding of your rights and obtain help with the process. Others in your position have consulted with attorneys with experience in LGBT adoptions, and you may benefit from doing the same.