Adoption not only helps to place a child in a loving home, but it also gifts deserving parents the child that they’ve always dreamed of. Within the LGBT community, adoption remains an invaluable and widely-used approach to starting or growing one’s family. Same sex families, specifically, do not have the same legal protections as other families.

The judicial system favors biological relationships between parents and children. The laws need to catch up to the changing family landscape as it is not always the case that both parents will be biologically related to their child, this is especially true for same sex couples. In order to maintain parental rights to their child(ren), same sex families have turned to second parent adoptions.

What is a Second Parent Adoption?

Second parent adoptions are commonly used in the LGBT community as a way to ensure that a parent who is not biologically related to their child retains full parental rights to the child. They differ from step-parent adoptions which require the termination of parental rights. Step-parent adoptions allow a step-parent and their partner to retain legal responsibility for a child, whether or not the couple is legally married.

Step-parent adoptions don’t really cover the family situation of an LGBT family. This is especially true for lesbian mothers who use an anonymous sperm donor. There is not a need for the termination of parental rights on the father’s side. Additionally, neither parent in the relationship is a step-parent.

In this way, second parent adoptions are an attractive option for LGBT families as they offer a more accurate representation of their family. However, in some cases, second parent adoption is not a possibility if your state does not allow for it. When this happens, it may be best to turn to a step-parent adoption.

When to Consider Second Parent Adoption

Oftentimes, same sex couples are not familiar with the legal process of obtaining parental rights. There is some confusion as to whether or not a birth certificate bearing the name of both parents (whether married or not) is enough to legally establish a parent-child relationship.

Unfortunately, it is not enough. The laws pertaining to the recognition of a child’s parents are not as clear cut for same sex couples, they range from state to state. This means that while you may have legal rights to your child in Colorado, you may not have the same rights in a different state.

Typically, only the birth mother has parental rights to the child universally across all 50 states. Even if both parents have contributed to raising their child equally, the “second parent” won’t have the same universal protections.

Why is it Important to have Parental Rights to a Child?

There is no knowing the future. While things may seem great now, life has a way of throwing unexpected turns at us. These changes can directly impact your legal relationship with your child. A breakup, medical emergency, or death will call for a well-defined legal relationship to your child.

If you are in a situation where you don’t legally have any parental rights to your child as the non-biological parent, then it is very possible that you will be denied visitation, the ability to make medical decisions, and possibly, custody. Adopting your child serves as a fail safe against these possibilities.

Alternatives to Second Parent Adoptions

If your state does not allow second parent adoptions, then there are two options that may help to protect your parental rights, moving forward. It is possible for you and your partner to draw up either a co-parent agreement or a custody agreement. While neither of these options guarantees that your parental rights will be upheld legally.

A custody agreement is drawn up by both you and your partner. They are good for planning out how you will handle the custody of your child in the event of a breakup. They can be written during or after the relationship. However, it is a good idea to have this agreement settled as early as possible, as things can get messy if the relationship does not end well.

Co-parenting agreements are a way to formally acknowledge the shared parenting of your child. They show that you both agree on the fact that you are equally parenting your child. They can also address inheritance and decide how each parent will contribute to the child’s financial and medical needs.

Second Parent Adoptions

Second parent adoptions are an invaluable tool when it comes to preserving the parental rights of spouses or non-married couples in an LGBT relationship. Even though as a country, we have seen progressive additions to the rights of the LGBT community, there still remains the need to form concrete protection of families in regard to parental rights.

If are in the process of starting or adding to your family, then a legal adoption may be the best way to ensure that your parental rights are legally protected. Doing research on the issue and speaking to a professional in the field of adoption law is essential. Adoption attorneys will help to guide you and your spouse through the process, they do everything in their power to help protect you and your family. Additionally, Adoption Choices of Colorado is an excellent resource and we can help answer your questions regarding adoption.

Adoption Choices of Colorado

For more information on adoption or if you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can be reached via our website or our phones: 303-670-4673(HOPE).

Make an Impact

CrowdriseAdoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.

But, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.


About the Author

Davina WardDavina grew up in the outskirts of New York City, before eventually moving to Buffalo, New York at the age of 10. Her passion for adoption comes from her own experiences of being in foster care and being an adoptee herself. She hopes to help others to understand the intricacies of adoption and encourage them to consider it as an option.

Davina is a proud Geneseo Knights alum having graduated in 2018. She has been writing for as long as she can remember and chose to pursue a degree in English with hopes of making her hobby a career. Thus far, she has enjoyed her time as an intern for Adoption Choices Inc. and looks forward to a bright future in writing. When she is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, building websites, and making lists.




“Adoption by LGBT Parents.” Nation Center for Lesbian Rights.

“Second Parent Adoptions.” Human Rights Campaign.

“Adoption by Family Type: Second-Parent Adoption.” Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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