A “second parent adoption” is a form of adoption used primarily by gay couples so that the non-biological parent is an equal parent with equal rights as the biological parent. For example, if one member of a lesbian couple is impregnated by artificial insemination and gives birth, through a second parent adoption the other party would be recognized as just as much a parent. Each would have the same authority to make decisions regarding the child. If they broke up, there would be the same issues of custody to work out as with a couple that is the biological father and mother. Without such an adoption, the birth mother would have full custody and all of a sudden her former partner would not be a parent any more.
Second parent adoption is authorized by statute in California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Vermont. It has been granted by adoption judges in trial courts in over 20 other states, and then affirmed by appellate courts in about one-third of those. It has been explicitly disallowed by appellate courts in at least three states. Its availability or legal status is unclear in many states.
In order for a second parent adoption to take place, the other biological parent must relinquish all parental rights. In the case of an anonymous sperm donor this is generally not a problem, as the contracts signed by donors include this relinquishing of parental rights. But if the other biological parent is known, they must forfeit their parental rights or the adoption cannot proceed.
The second parent adoption process is different in different jurisdictions, where it exists at all. It is a complex or ambiguous enough area of the law that it is strongly advised to hire an attorney who is familiar with the process.
In some states it will be necessary to obtain a “homestudy.” This is a report by a social worker on one’s fitness to be an adoptive parent.
In general, it will be necessary to fill out various court forms. The adopting parent—or usually both—will have to provide such information as name, address, social security number, employment status, salary, and residence information since age 18. A fingerprint-based criminal background check will be necessary.
Support letters will either be helpful or mandatory. These are letters from family and friends who can affirm that the relationship is a long term, stable, loving one, and the household would be an appropriate one for raising a child.
The final stage is a hearing where the judges considers all the documentation that has been submitted to the court, questions the parties, and renders a ruling on whether allowing the adoption would be in the best interests of the child.
The process typically takes six to nine months from start to finish. However, this is variable, based in large part on the court’s schedule and how soon a hearing can be scheduled.
Nicole Braddock, “Second Party Adoption Process.” Live Strong.
Anthony M. Brown, “Second Parent Adoption.” Time for Families.
“Second Parent Adoption is a Benefit in Many States.” Proud Parenting.