Adopting a child is a big, exciting step for every family. However, it tends to be significantly more complicated in cases of same-sex adoption, even in states with more gay-friendly marriage and family laws in place. In New York, same-sex couples are able to adopt children jointly. This provides a benefit for many gay couples seeking to adopt because it allows both partners to establish legal parenthood from the get-go. New York also allows such couples equal access to the services of adoption agencies.
What it Means to Establish Legal Parenthood
When you adopt a child, you legally obligate yourself to make important decisions about that child’s personal, physical, mental, emotional, and financial wellbeing. Joint adoption is so important because it immediately gives both spouses equally responsible for raising and caring for that child, as well as ensuring the burden of parenting and supporting them will be fairly distributed in the event of divorce or separation.
One member of a same-sex couple may wish to legally adopt their partner’s child from a previous marriage, which is permissible in the state of New York. This obligates you to share equal financial and parental responsibility, even in the event you and your partner decide to split. However, doing so may require the biological parent to complete a stepparent adoption on your behalf. In order to count a same-sex partner’s biological child as a dependent (and receive important tax and Social Security benefits), you must legally adopt that child, even if you are already contributing to providing them with financial support, food, a place to live, etc.
What Happens When Same-Sex Partners Do Not Jointly Adopt or Undergo Stepparent Adoption
There are many sad stories about what happens to parent-child relationships when same-sex parents divorce or split up. Even if a same-sex partner has served as a parent, financial supporter, caregiver, bed-time-story-reader, and fulfilled every other parental duty imaginable to their partner’s biological child or to a child only officially adopted by their same-sex partner, they do not have any legal rights to that child in the event of a breakup or divorce. If your relationship takes a serious downturn, it is unlikely you will be able to remain involved in the life of your same-sex partner’s biological child or a child you are raising together that you have not jointly adopted if you have not taken necessary legal measures to establish parenthood.
In such cases, courts may consider the amount of time and money you have spent raising that child. They may also consider parenting agreements and other contracts within the marriage or regarding the child in question, as well as evaluating your shared intent to be active, involved parents to the child in question. However, you are unlikely to be awarded more than visitation rights unless you cement your legal parenthood.
Need Help with a Joint Adoption or Same-Sex Parenting Dispute? Call our New York City Family Lawyers Right Away.
Our experienced legal team at Goldweber Epstein LLP knows exactly how to help you and your same-sex partner, whether you are seeking to adopt or preparing to parent after a breakup or divorce. However, don’t wait until you are facing serious conflict to protect yourself.
Call us at (917) 809-7669 immediately or contact us to schedule a free initial consultation.