For most LGBT parents, it took careful planning, deliberate action, and financial commitment to create their families. LGBT parents must do the same careful planning, deliberate action, and financial commitment to protect their families.
This LGBT Parenting series explores the ways that non-traditional families can take action to put legal protections into place. My first blog article, "Key Takeaway from LGBT Parenting Seminar: Take Action!", gives an overview of the legal protections available. My second article, LGBT Parenting: Shared Custody, discusses Shared Custody as the best option to protect same-sex parents who are not married. This article explains why Step-Parent Adoption should be pursued by married same-sex parents.
LGBT Parenting: Step-Parent Adoption
For LGBT parents who are married, Step-Parent Adoption is THE answer in Ohio. With a Step-Parent Adoption, the parent who did not give birth to the child or did not adopt the child (the "step-parent") is given full parental rights. And the other parent does not lose any legal rights in a step-parent adoption. The end result is beautiful: the child now has two legal, forever parents!
To pursue a step-parent adoption, the step-parent must file a petition in the Probate Court in the county in which he/she resides. There are many other documents which must be included with the petition. Typically, the petitioner must also provide a Consent from the birth/adoptive parent, certified copy of the child's birth certificate, certified copy of the marriage certificate or license, financial statement, medical reports, letters of reference, criminal background check, search results from the Ohio Central Registry for Abuse and Neglect, and search results from the Ohio Putative Father Registry (if applicable).
Some Probate Courts require additional paperwork to be submitted, and some Courts require the petitioner to have an attorney. All Probate Courts require the payment of a filing fee and home study fee. After the petition is filed, the court's social worker will do a home visit with the family and then submit a report to the probate judge. Finally, a hearing is held at Probate Court in order for the judge to rule on the adoption petition. Once the adoption is granted, the "step-parent" is added to the child's birth certificate and has full legal rights to his/her child.
Adding Your Name to the Birth Certificate Is NOT Enough
In Ohio, if a same-sex couple is legally married at the time the baby is born, both parents' names can be added to the baby's birth certificate. However, that is NOT enough! The Ohio Statutes concerning parentage typically refer only to a “father” and “mother.” This is problematic for two mothers or two fathers, of course. That's why I strongly recommend that married same-sex couples pursue a Step-Parent Adoption for the non-bio/non-adoptive parent. It's best to have a court order which establishes full legal rights for the other parent.
Maria Shinn has helped numerous families throughout Ohio obtain Step-Parent Adoptions and Shared Custody rights from Probate and Juvenile Courts. Please contact her to learn more or to schedule a consultation.