Second Parent Adoption


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Second parent adoption in Florida is when an unmarried parent adopts her partner’s biological or adoptive child. This adoption generally gives the second parent full legal parental rights, legal and custodial. Second parent adoption is important not just in Florida, but in any state without same-sex marriage rights.

What a Second Parent Adoption Does

Some people in a domestic partnership assume that taking care of their partner’s child gives them legal rights to that child. This is a mistake. The only sure way to secure these legal rights is through a second parent adoption.

Gay couples that forgo a second parent adoption suffer financially.

Same-sex couples in Florida  should consider second parent adoption for three reasons:

  1. To protect the original parent.
  2. To protect the rights of the adopting parent.
  3. To protect the rights of the child.

Without a second parent adoption, the original parent can’t rely on the second parent’s legal duty to provide for their child. This is especially important if the partners break up: a second parent adoption can make the second parent help provide for the child even after the divorce or domestic partnership dissolution.

Of course, this works both ways. The second parent will also feel more secure in his legal right to care for the child. If the couple breaks up, the second parent will still be able to have a relationship with the child.

Finally, the child herself is guaranteed the legal support of two parents, regardless of what happens to the couple’s relationship.

Who Can Get a Second Parent Adoption?

The most common clients getting a second parent adoption in Florida are lesbian couples where one partner is the biological parent, though this holds true throughout Florida. Other people that use second parent adoptions include:

  • Gay male couples where a surrogate mother has given birth to a child using one of the men’s sperm.
  • Couples where one partner has previously adopted a child on his or her own.
  • Couples where one partner has a biological child with a previous relationship, and the other biological parent has given up his or her parental rights.
You can’t get a second parent adoption without consent from the third party biological parent. And you can’t do it if there are already two legal parents (for example, an opposite-sex ex-spouse) without having the other legal parent terminate his parental rights.

Why should you get it?

Without a second parent adoption, the non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship has no legal rights to the child. None. It doesn’t matter if the couple registers as domestic partners. It doesn’t matter if the couple travels to a gay marriage state to get married before coming back to Florida. It’s also not enough for the non-biological parent to be set up as the guardian of the child.

The only sure way for the non-biological parent to obtain legal rights to the child in Florida is through a second parent adoption.

A second parent adoption lets the non-biological parent make important decisions and share in custody for the child even if the partners separate or if one partner dies. Or it could be much simpler: it will let the non-biological parent do things like pick up their kid from school or make medical decisions when the biological parent can’t be reached.

How much does it cost?

The cost of a second parent adoption mostly includes the home study fee, the legal fee, the filing fee charged by the court. There’s a few other small costs such as fingerprints and a background check. Please contact me for more specifics.

Keep in mind that all of these costs may be eligible for the federal adoption tax credit. The adoption tax credit could mean that your federal income tax is reduced dollar for dollar by the amount of your adoption expenses.

Understand the financial risk of not doing an adoption. If the biological parent dies, then the surviving non-biological parent could lose legal parent rights. The same could happen if the partners separate. It will cost a lot of money for the non-biological parent to prove in court that she has rights to the child.

What’s the second parent adoption process?

First we file an adoption petition and related paperwork. You’ll also need to get fingerprints and a background check.

Next, you’ll have to do a home study. A social worker licensed by DCF will determine if your home is suitable for adoption. You can get a private agency to do the home study if you don’t want it to be done by the state.

The reason you have to do the home study, even if it’s an older child already living in your house, is because under Florida law, a second parent adoption is treated as if it were a regular adoption.

While the home study is going on, I’ll be working to obtain consent from the surrogate mother, sperm donor, or father to terminate all legal parental rights. Without this, a judge will probably not approve the second parent adoption. Some couples still want these third parties to be involved in the child’s life, which is completely fine. However, these third parties must still terminate all legal rights they have to the child.

I’ll also take steps to ensure that your adoption is recognized in other states, including states that don’t allow second parent adoptions.

Once all that’s done, I do a putative father registry search, which is a check to see if anyone else is claiming to be the father. Then, we schedule an adoption hearing with the judge. Finally, I prepare the judgment and the paperwork to change the birth certificate.

Second parent adoptions are a unique form of adoption, and you’ll want a lawyer to help guide you through. Any mistakes you make on your own could results in the non-biological parent losing his or her rights to your child down the road. Contact my office if you’d like help with the process.

How long does it take?

Generally 2-3 months once the adoption petition is filed.

What will be on the child’s birth certificate?

Both of the partners names. That means both moms or both dads. Once the second parent adoption is completed, a new birth certificate is issued by Florida showing the names of the new legal parents.

Second Parent Adoption in Florida: How to Get Started

Getting approval for a second parent adoptions in Florida is tricky. As you probably already know, gay adoption in general was illegal in Florida until just a few years ago. Getting a second parent adoption approved in Florida is doable, but requires specialized knowledge of judges and the legal process.

To get started, contact me here or call my office at (407) 476-6047. I’ll help you with every step of the process, from the initial consultation through the final hearing where the judge will approve of the adoption.

I help people throughout Florida. For my clients that live outside of Orlando, I provide services remotely through email and phone–there is no need to come to my office.

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About Gideon Alper

Gideon Alper
Gideon is an attorney that focuses on adoption, bankruptcy, same-sex couples, evictions, and debt collection defense in Orlando, Florida.