Second Parent Adoption
Key Points
  • Second parent adoptions often occur in same-sex marriages. There are some states that do not permit such adoptions, make sure you read about the state’s laws if you are looking to adopt your partner’s biological child.
  • Co-parent or second parent adoption is a legal procedure which gives both parents legal rights to the child or children. The rights of the biological parent are not terminated, simply the co-parent or partner is able to adopt the child.

Increasingly, some couples turn to what is called second parent adoption, which permits a same-sex parent to adopt a partner’s biological or adoptive child without terminating the legal rights of the first parent. In a second parent adoption, both the natural parent and the second parent exercise legal guardianship and rights.

Second parent adoption is used when a stepparent adopts the child with the consent of the existing legal parent or parents, particularly when one partner in a gay or lesbian couple wants to adopt the other partner’s child, for example, when a lesbian has a child through egg or sperm donation, and her partner wants to adopt the child.

State laws and court rulings on second parent adoption vary. Nine states, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont and the District of Colombia have authorized second parent adoptions by appellate court rulings or statute. Trial courts have granted second-parent adoptions in Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington.

In 22 other states, the law remains unclear. They are: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Appellate courts have ruled that the state adoption law does not permit second-parent adoption in Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

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