Making Smart Legal Choices Before Baby Makes Three
With all the good news going ’round about same-sex marriage, we were bound to see some trickle-down at the agency level, and that’s happening at a variety of different Vital Statistic agencies. States are beginning to issue birth certificates that name the spouse of the birth mother – regardless of gender – as the second parent of the child. And this is, indeed, good news. It means a lot of things: it means an easier time for same-sex couples (typically, this only applies to two women) at the hospital and an easier time for the period between the birth of the child and the second-parent adoption.
Here’s what the issuing of these kinds of birth certificates doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean that you and your wife can forgo a second-parent adoption. If you do, to be blunt, you are just asking for trouble. The failure to obtain the adoption decree could adversely affect the parental rights of the non-biological parent in the event of the dissolution of the relationship or the death of the birth parent, and it could adversely affect the rights of the child in the event of the death of the non-biological parent. What is worse, there is plenty of bad information on the internet suggesting that these adoptions are no longer necessary. It is just that – bad information.
While by nearly every measure this is an exciting time for the equality movement, it is no time to be complacent. If you and your spouse are expecting – talk to a lawyer. The two of you will never be more inclined to make plans for the future as when you are expecting your bundle of joy, so please make sure that you make use of those nine months before the birth. Get all of your papers in order and if you are lucky enough to live in a jurisdiction that allows same-sex adoptions – make sure you do yours. A birth certificate is not the same as a Court Order granting the non-biological parent with the rights and responsibilities of parenthood.
Remember, we welcome your questions and encourage you to ask them before your big day.
Heather & Emily
Heather McCabe and Emily Russell are family law practitioners who regularly serve the LGBT community in all kinds of legal affairs – from adoptions to dissolutions/divorces. McCabe has taught family law and legal writing and has been on the faculty at Georgetown Law, American University, and University of Baltimore. Russell worked as a lobbyist before coming to the law. Whether through document drafting, mediation, collaborative law, or litigation, McCabe and Russell are committed to the creation and security of the unique families they serve.