Although Maryland has established de facto parenting as a method to ensure that your relationship can be maintained with your children without adopting them, it is critical that parents follow through with a second parent adoption. When the court orders an adoption, all legal rights and responsibilities of the natural parents are terminated according to Maryland law. This means that there cannot be any interference involving the child’s biological parents. The parent-child relationship must be created and established by judicial order for those rights to be fully granted.
A case occurred this year in Oklahoma that demonstrates exactly why non-biological parents in an LGBTQ+ relationship should adopt their child. Kris Williams was listed on Rebekah Wilson’s son’s birth certificate, but she never adopted him. Rebekah, Kris’ then-wife, had this child thanks to a sperm donor back in 2019. Because Kris never adopted her son, she had no legal parental rights over him. When the couple split, Kris was surprised to learn that she would also lose custody of her son, whom she helped raise with all her heart for two years.
The court determined that the sperm donor was the biological parent, ending all ties between Kris and the toddler. Although Kris knew she had to go through the legal adoption process to establish parental rights, she never did. As such, the court would not relax its ultimate decision. Kris was left shocked, childless, and emotionally distraught. It’s important to note that Oklahoma is a de facto parenting state, yet this case ended in an LGBTQ+ parent losing their child.
The same can happen for couples in Maryland. The best way to protect your rights as a parent is to complete a second adoption. Many LGBTQ+ organizations across the nation, like the National Center for Lesbian Rights, recommend that non-biological parents legally adopt their children to make sure that their parental rights are protected at all costs. It’s crucial to have an experienced family law attorney who knows the struggles that LGBTQ+ parents face by your side, whether you’ve decided on adopting or you’re still on the fence about it.
What is second parent adoption?
When one partner wants to legally establish parental rights to their partner’s child, they can engage in second parent adoption. There are a few instances in which a couple would consider second parent adoption:
- One parent originally adopted the child on their own.
- One or both parents have children from a previous marriage or relationship.
- One parent is the legal (biological) parent of the child.
- The couple has used assisted reproductive technology to conceive the child, but only one parent is legally, biologically considered the parent.
When the partner becomes a legal parent, they are now legally responsible for that child. They will be able to make decisions for them, such as in a medical situation, and they can have a say in their education. Although significant strides have been made in cementing parental rights for LGBTQ+ individuals and the community, these rights are under a barrage of attacks across the country. What is establish process and law in Maryland today could potentially be stripped away in the future; we can help you ensure that your rights as a parent remain with you, legally.
What is needed for second parent adoption?
The adoption process typically starts with a home study. (This is when a social worker visits the home of the couple wishing to adopt. They will assess whether this adoption will be in the child’s best interest.) If you and your partner are adopting a child together, this would be an important step.
However, second-parent adoptions in Maryland, much like stepparent adoptions, generally do not need home studies. Unless a court sees reason, these investigations are typically waived. Along with your petition for adoption, you may be asked to provide:
- a copy of the petitioner’s and prospective adoptee’s mother’s marriage certificate; or
- evidence of the parties’ shared express intent to become parents of the child by means of assisted reproduction, including a copy of any written agreement consenting to the conception of the prospective adoptee by means of assisted reproduction;
- a copy of the prospective adoptee’s birth certificate
- a statement explaining the circumstances of the prospective adoptee’s conception in detail sufficient to identify any individual who may be entitled to notice or whose consent may be required under this subtitle.
What does it mean when a state establishes de facto parenting?
De facto parenting is when a court finds that a non-biological parent may be legally entitled to the recognition of being their parent. If the bond and relationship between the child and the non-adoptive parent are strong enough, de facto parent status may be established.
Nevertheless, this status does not grant the individual the same exact rights and responsibilities as a parent or guardian. They do not have an absolute right to any form of custody over the child. Either way, having this status is still a stronger form of protection over the child than having none at all. If seeking de facto status from the court, you will participate in disposition hearings.
There are many rules and regulations behind second parent adoption, so it’s important that you do not go about it alone. Having an experienced Rockville family law attorney from McCabe & Russell behind you every step of the way will ensure that you are doing everything correctly. Our lawyers will make certain that all of your questions are answered and that you are prepared for any objections that may come your way. We also have attorneys in Fulton, Bethesda, and Columbia ready to help. You can fill out our contact form today or call us to set up a no-obligation consultation.