Written by attorney Lilah J Sutphen

California Adoption Options for Lesbians: Stepparent vs. Second Parent Adoption

Adoption Options for Lesbians: Stepparent/Domestic Partner Adoption vs. Second Parent Adoption

Are you or your partner thinking of having a child with the use of a sperm donor? Or, perhaps, you and your partner already have a child you are raising together. Regardless of where you are in the process of creating your family, this article will help you better understand the importance of performing an adoption as a way to avoid any possible legal parentage problems.

California Law

California’s domestic partnership law does consider a child born into a domestic partnership to be the legal child of both partners despite the lack of a biological connection. But regardless of this generous provision in California law, the non-bio parent would be wise tocomplete an adoption anyway! A court judgment that declares both of you equal legal parents will always be the best evidence of your parentage.

Three Reasons Adoption is Necessary:

  1. Federal laws as well as the majority of other states do not recognize domestic partnership rights. If non-bio mom travels to Utah and Baby Bobby gets in a serious accident will the hospital permit non bio-mom to make medical decisions? An adoption judgment will ensure no problems arise because they are given full faith and credit in all 50 states.

  2. If your domestic partnership/marriage ends, an adoption judgment will also help eliminate the possibility of conflict and litigation over an issue of legal parentage in dissolution/child custody proceedings.

  3. If bio-mom passes away or becomes incapacitated, non-bio’s mom legal parental rights as the other parent will be protected from any contesting individuals, including family members who may not have agreed with the relationship and attempt to take custody of the child.

There are two types of adoption available to same-sex couples: (1) stepparent/domestic partner adoption, and (2) second parent adoption.

Stepparent/Domestic Partner Adoption

A stepparent/domestic partner adoption is an option only if you are in a registered domestic partnership. This type of adoption allows you to adopt your partner’s biological (or adoptive) child without giving up her rights. After the adoption is complete you will both be recognized as equal parents with equal rights and responsibilities.

The stepparent/domestic partner adoption process is the most streamlined (read: quickest and cheapest) adoption, since the child is already residing in the home of the person seeking to adopt and the adoption is obviously consented to by the parent keeping rights. The court recognizes this as a situation where the family already exists and the relationships just need to be formally legalized.

Second Parent Adoption

Unlike a stepparent/domestic partner adoption, a second parent adoption is available to all couples, regardless of whether you are married or in a registered domestic partnership. The original parent is still not required to give up their legal rights, and the judgment will still provide equal rights and responsibilities to each of you as a legal parent. If you are not married nor a registered domestic partner, a second parent adoption is your only option.

Second parent adoptions cost more, involve a more invasive home study, and generally take more time to complete as opposed to a stepparent/domestic partner adoption. This is because the court does not recognize that you and the child’s legal parent are in a committed relationship.

Regardless of which type of adoption fits your situation, it is important that you have an attorney assist you with the process. The court process and requirements can be confusing, and there are many steps involved.

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