Ask Yetta: Second-Parent Adoption


Dear Yetta,

My wife and I recently had our second child, and she had to go through the process of adopting our first child. Now that we’re married and our marriage is recognized by the state and feds, do we need to go through the adoption process on our second child? We’re both named on the birth certificate.

-New Mom
Dear New Mom,

Congratulations on your growing family! Unfortunately, simply being listed on a child’s birth certificate will not guarantee a parent the same rights and responsibilities of the biological parent. Even with marriage equality, new parents of the same sex may not both be recognized immediately as the child’s legal parents. Same-sex couples are still required to petition for second-parent adoption in order to establish that the non-biological parent is the child’s parent under the law.*

In order to be recognized as the child’s legal parent, you still need to adopt your child. What you’re describing is called a “second-parent adoption,” the process by which the non-biological (not related by blood) parent gains all the rights and responsibilities of a birth/biological parent. Being the legal parent of a child can ensure that you have all the rights and responsibilities of a biological parent. This means you will have an equal right to make decisions regarding your child’s welfare, education, health care, etc.

Without being the child’s legal parent, you could be prevented from seeing your child and making important decisions for him or her. Should you and your spouse separate, the birth parent’s rights would most likely be superior to your own. Further, if your spouse were to die, you may not be recognized as the child’s guardian if you are not a legal parent. So, obviously there is an important difference between your wife being listed on the child’s birth certificate as a parent and going the legal process of adoption.

You can petition for a second parent adoption without an attorney, but many people find that because of the numerous forms and other documents required—along with the complicated process that includes an obligatory home visit by a social worker—retaining an experienced law firm to handle the process is much more efficient and saves valuable time, hardship and resources.

I hope this is helpful, and again, congratulations on the new addition to your family.

* Although a Surrogate Court Judge in Brooklyn, New York, recently ruled that same-sex couples who are both named on the birth certificate should not have to go through a second-parent adoption proceeding.


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*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.