Same-Sex Adoption

After the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling back in 2015, things have changed quickly across the country and here in Mooresville, North Carolina in terms of gay marriage and associated legal rights. Same-sex couples now have the same options available to them that have long been available to other couples. That means things like outside adoption and stepparent adoption, which used to be limited only to married opposite-sex couples, are now possible for everyone.

Though the law has changed quickly and in important ways, there are still serious legal hurdles that same-sex couples must navigate when establishing their families. If you have questions about same-sex adoption or other family law matters in the Lake Norman area, feel free to reach out to the experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC today for a consultation.

Stepparent Adoption

Second-parent adoption is not allowed in North Carolina, either for gay or straight couples. This kind of adoption involves adopting a child without terminating any of the original parents’ rights. Though this is not an option, there are other approaches worth considering.

Stepparent adoption is available for married same-sex couples living in Mooresville, something that was not always the case. This kind of adoption happens when someone is married to someone else who has a child. In this case, the stepparent wants to adopt the child and become a legal co-parent. To do that, the stepparent will need to first ensure that the child’s legal relationship to a previous parent is terminated. This is required before parental rights can be transferred to the new stepparent. Though terminating parental rights is possible without cooperation from the other biological parent, such consent is often obtained to make the process move more smoothly.

In what situations can stepparent adopt a stepchild? First, the spouse who is the parent of the child must be the one with both physical and legal custody of the child. That person’s home will also need to have served as the child’s primary residence during the six months immediately prior to the filing of the adoption petition. Second, stepparent adoption can occur if the parent/spouse recently died or is declared incompetent. In that case, the parent/spouse must have previously had physical and legal custody of the child and been home to child’s primary residence. If neither situation exists, stepparent adoption can be approved when an adoption petition is filed showing that there is “good cause” for the adoption. This is broadly interpreted and covers situations in which the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

Before stepparent adoption is allowed, there are other hoops that must be jumped through. If the child is 12 or older, he or she must have consented to the adoption (though there is an exception if the child’s objections are found not to be valid). It also usually requires the consent of both biological parents. If, for whatever reason, the non-spouse parent will not grant consent, this can create serious legal problems for the adoption. However, consent may not be necessary if the other parent had his or her rights taken away through a court order, if he or she is deceased, if he or she relinquished his or her rights, if he or she fails to respond after being served with notice, if he or she disavows paternity or if he or she had no contact with the child prior to the adoption petition being filed.

Outside Adoption

Outside adoption, meaning adoption of a child that neither parent is biologically related to, involves entirely different legal hurdles. These kinds of adoption take place either through public agencies or through private adoption organizations. North Carolina law is largely silent on the subject of outside adoption by same-sex parents. Though married same-sex couples can legally petition for joint adoption in Mooresville, there are some private agencies, specifically those with some religious affiliations, which will not work with same-sex couples. Given the complexities involved, it is best to rely on your skilled adoption attorney to help maneuver through the confusing process.

The family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have years of experience handling the especially complex legal issues that exist when family matters are involved. No matter how complicated your situation is, and this includes navigating the difficult adoption process, our family law attorneys are here to help. Our families live locally alongside yours and we are eager to assist however we can.