In 2015, the U. S. Supreme Court recognized that same-sex couples have the right to marry. That was just the beginning.
Guaranteeing the right to marry does not guarantee all the traditional legal rights of marriage — including equal parental rights to children of the marriage.
For same-sex couples, often there is only one legal parent even though two people may equally parent the child and think of themselves as co-parents. Often, the status as a legal parent is automatically conveyed only to the parent who has a biological connection to a child, such as a biological mom or biological dad.
Similarly, while some couples raise an adopted child together, only one of them may have officially become the adoptive parent as a single individual because some agencies prohibit same-sex couples from adopting together.
Why should I adopt my spouse’s child?
- To ensure that each spouse is recognized as an equal legal parent and has the same legal rights as a biological parent, nonbiological parents should adopt their spouse’s child.
- To be eligible for health insurance coverage.
- To be protect inheritance rights if you die without a will.
- To retain the legal right to custody and remain in the child’s life, if you get divorced or your spouse becomes incapacitated or dies.
Do we have to be married for me to adopt my partner’s child?
Yes, you must be married to adopt your partner’s child. North Carolina does not allow second parent adoption (also called a co-parent adoption). A second-parent adoption is a legal procedure that allows a same-sex parent, regardless of whether they have a legally recognized relationship (marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership), to adopt her or his partner’s biological or adoptive child without terminating the first parent’s legal status as a parent.
However, a non-biological parent who has raised a child with the consent and encouragement of a legal parent may be able to seek custody.
Even though we are not married, if my name is on my child’s birth certificate, why do I need to adopt my partner’s child to establish or protect my parental rights?
- A birth certificate is a document issued through an administrative process and is not a court order.
- A marriage certificate is based on the relationship between spouses only and not the relationship between parent and child.
- A birth certificate can be based solely on the relationship between spouses and not the relationship between parent and child.
- Parentage that is solely dependent on a birth certificate can be challenged in a divorce — and there are several cases out there where that has happened.
- Parentage based solely on a birth certificate might not be recognized by all judges/courts/states/countries.
- The birth certificate administrative process does not ensure that sperm donor or other possible parent rights are terminated by court order.
- Parentage based solely on a birth certificate may not be sufficient to secure inheritance rights, to qualify the child for social security benefits, or to claim the child as a dependent.
For more information on same-sex stepparent and second parent adoptions in North Carolina, please call our offices today at 919-821-1860.