How Do I Handle Second Parent Adoption with a Known Donor?

lgbt legal questions

Q: My partner wants to adopt my 1-year-old daughter, and we’re not sure how to handle my known sperm donor. We didn’t have a written agreement, but he still plays a role in her life as an uncle. Although I was single and wasn’t with my partner when I became pregnant, he did verbally agree to not prevent a future adoption. What do we do if he changes his mind? How does New York handle this?

A: Known donor agreements, verbal or written, offer great guidance as to the parameters of the known donor’s relationship (i.e. visitation, shared decision-making, how the child will refer to the donor) with the intended child, and the intent of the parties at the time of signing. A written known donor agreement is strongly preferable to a verbal agreement because it is a concrete piece of evidence that the court may read and examine to determine the parties’ understanding and mutual desires.

An agreement truly comes into play when a party wants to stray away from the stipulations in the agreement, i.e. if a mother asks for child support, or if a known donor wants to make medical decisions for the child. For a second-parent adoption, the consent of the known donor is required, as the court will ask for documentation of the donor status, i.e. a letter from the sperm bank if the donor was anonymous.

In your situation, if the known donor refuses to sign the surrender waiving his parental rights in favor of your partner’s second-parent adoption, you will need to terminate his rights in order for your partner to adopt. New York courts will allow only two legal parents, not three or more. A New York lawyer, either your adoption attorney or a family lawyer, will handle the termination of parental rights.

For answers to your adoption questions or to set up a free consultation, please visit
Evita Nancy Torre is an adoption attorney with Greenberg Adoption: The Law Offices of Clifford L. Greenberg in New York City. The firm’s founder, Cliff Greenberg, is the resident legal expert at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, and published a children’s book (illustrated by his young daughter) about a girl’s adoption by two loving mothers, “Living the Dream with Mommy and Mama.” Greenberg Adoption hosts The Center’s monthly Family Law Clinic, and exclusively practices adoption law.

Please Note: This article, or its content, does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided is about legal issues but it is not intended as legal advice.

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