when thinking about children, never in our lives did we think we would have to go through an adoption process. especially children that shared biology and that one of us literally birthed. but with how things are in America, that’s how it works.
both of our names are on our children’s birth certificates, however, that does not grant legal parental rights. it is just a piece of paper. in order to have full legal rights – in most states – you need to go through a formal adoption process. as to which parent has to adopt depends on the state. *edited to note that as of Jan 1, 2020, California has changed their law to allow couples to sign what is called a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage (click to review the law).
in several states, the process is called a Second Parent Adoption. it basically allows both parents to have equal rights over their children. some states do not offer this, so you may need to have a lawyer draft a co-parenting or custody agreement. if you’re not married, there’s something called a Step Parent Adoption as well that you could consider.
jordana + I live in PA but we delivered in NJ and the laws are not the same. in PA, the law seems to be a bit unsettled and lawyers that I’ve talked to have recommend doing a joint parent adoption, so both parents would legally adopt the child(ren). in NJ, the gestational carrier is considered the legal parent (which makes no sense since in our case, I shared no DNA with the kids). so Jordana had to legally adopt her own biological children.
I want to point out that this is NOT required but it offers protection should something – God forbid – go wrong with your kids or your marriage (or if the Supreme Court overturns gay marriage). the last thing you want to have to go through if you were to get divorced is fighting over the legal right to see your child. or if your child was hospitalized, have the hospital refuse to let you in because you’re not a legal parent. I don’t want this to scare you but rather to just educate you on what could potentially happen in a worst case scenario. and Lord knows with what’s been going on in Washington, D.C. that we could use all the protection we can get!
RESOURCES (will continue to update):
- click here to find a family law attorney in your state from The LGBT Bar. if there is no attorney listed for your state, google “[your state] bar association” and contact them to help you find a family lawyer. once you find one, ask them if they also can help you with estate planning (power of attorney, wills, healthcare proxy).
- here is a long article written by the National Center for Lesbian Rights on The Legal Recognition of LGBT Families.
*while I am a lawyer, this is not legal advice but rather legal information. please find a local lawyer to assist you!