THE LEGALESE OF LESBIAN PARENTING: STARTING THE SECOND PARENT ADOPTION
Mom-to-Be to-do list
- Paint and decorate baby nursery
- Research safety reviews on car seats, cribs, strollers and other baby gear
- Tediously register for gifts at the baby store
- Sign up for “Baby Basics” or “New Parent” class at hospital
- Tour the labor and delivery department at hospital
- Take out a life insurance policy
- Create a living will
Lesbian Moms-to-Be to-do list
- All of the above
- Hire an attorney
- File a petition with the county court for second-parent adoption
- Provide proof of intent to co-parent
- Provide proof of insemination by anonymous donor
- Submit to background check with local law enforcement
- Complete child abuse clearance
- Register fingerprints with FBI
SECOND PARENT ADOPTION IN PHILADELPHIA
I’ve never hired an attorney. There’s never been a reason to do so since up until now, I’ve lived a very ordinary existence. However, now that everything’s changing, my wife and I decided it was time to hire an attorney to represent us throughout the second-parent adoption process. We met with him today for our first consultation.
We were referred to our attorney last fall at an LGBT parenting conference sponsored by the Philadelphia Family Pride (a local non-profit organization for LGBT parents, prospective parents and their children). There, it was recommended that we get started with the second-parent adoption process as early as possible since there is a lot of paperwork to complete, which is easier to do when you’re not busy being a new parent.
Second-parent adoption allows me to adopt our children without my wife having to forfeit her parental rights. Adopting our children ensures that I am legally recognized as their parent. So, no matter what the future holds, I will always be their mom.
Today, we prepared ourselves for the worst, thinking that this process would be expensive, super invasive (due to the dreaded home study) and time-consuming. But, while it does add quite a bit of extra work to my to-do list, I was pleasantly surprised about the process. Because we live in the liberal, LGBT-friendly city of Philadelphia, the home study is not required. This saves us thousands of dollars and the peace of mind of not having a social worker poking around our home and possibly telling us we’re unfit to parent. We may not be perfectly prepared for parenthood, but we’re certainly fit for the job. As the court reviews our case, we may still be subject to an interview with a social worker and the social worker reserves the right to visit our home, however, we are not required to hire a third-party company to perform a thorough home study.
The consultation went really well. Our attorney put us at ease and attempted to get to know us, asking us to tell the story of how we came to be in a relationship and prospective co-parents. He’s also working with us on our wills and advance medical directives (which allows us to act on each other’s behalf in the event one of us is unable to make medical decisions).
SECOND PARENT ADOPTION COSTS AND CREDITS
Seeking legal advice can be expensive. Fortunately, I qualify for the adoption tax credit when I file my taxes next year. Although the credit equals the total of all adoption-related expenses claimed (in other words, we get it all back), we still have to pay for everything up front. We’re not wealthy people, so parting with nearly $4,000 right before our children are born is challenging.
Most expectant parents might have a chunk of change like that earmarked for a down payment on a new minivan, daycare or college savings. Our friends and family have heard a lot about this bit of injustice lately, as I’ve been reminding anyone who’s old enough to vote to consider families like ours when choosing new government officials.
For now, though, it’s well worth the extra effort and money in order to secure my rights as a parent to the children I don’t carry in my uterus, but carry in my heart (and soon in my arms).
Please Note: The second-parent adoption process varies by state and county, so the best advice I can give you is to seek legal counsel from an attorney in your area.