For many same-sex couples, there is one legal parent despite both individuals taking an equal part in raising the child. Often, the reason for this is because only the biological parent has legal status or is on the birth certificate — unless the other parent adopts the child. For same-sex couples who wish to ensure that each parent has equal legal status, a second parent adoption can be the answer.
Second parent adoption refers to the adoption of a child by a parent who is not genetically related to the child. Although parents might consider themselves “co-parents,” it’s not uncommon for only one parent to be legally recognized in scenarios involving same-sex couples. Second parent adoption can be crucial both for the parent and the child and should seriously be considered by same-sex couples. Specifically, it means that the non-biological or “second” parent can have the same legal relationship with the child without the other parent losing their rights.
Whether you and your partner are married, you may be able to legally share parental rights if you satisfy specific criteria. Importantly, there are several requirements when it comes to adoption. A second parent in an Oregon adoption must:
Once the second parent adoption process is finalized in Oregon, the child will have two legal parents — and their status will be recognized in all 50 states.
In addition to formalizing the parent-child relationship, second parent adoption can provide a number of legal benefits. Not only would the second parent have custody and visitation rights in the event of a divorce, but adoption also gives them the authority to access the child’s school and medical records.
Once a second parent adoption is completed, there can be no challenges to the parent-child relationship. Significantly, both parents would have equal responsibility for the child as well as have a say in their medical care, education, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities. The child’s inheritance rights from that parent would also be protected.
Many same-sex couples in Oregon pursue surrogacy or use assisted reproductive technology to become parents. If one of the parents is biologically related to the child, they will be given pre-birth parentage rights. Additionally, same-sex couples — whether married or unmarried — can obtain a pre-birth parentage order which are enforceable in Oregon, as well as in other states.
Although a birth certificate in Oregon will include the name of the surrogate, Oregon law allows it to be changed with relative ease. The intended parents can remove the surrogate’s name and add their own, regardless of whether they are the same gender.
Critically, as of January 1, 2018, sperm, egg, and embryo donors cannot assert any legal parental rights regarding any resulting child in most cases. However, the law only applies to same-sex couples in which one of the partners is the biological mother. It is not applicable to same-sex married men.
There are many factors that go into how much a second parent adoption can cost in Oregon. If you are starting the process from the beginning, the cost of adopting through a private agency licensed by the DHS can total as much as $40,000. However, second parent adoptions can cost significantly less. The average cost for a second parent adoption is $5,000 for a single child and provided that the other biological parent (if there is one) consents. The cost includes filing fees, legal fees, and incidental expenses. This type of adoption rarely involves a home study, but if a home study is required, that will be an additional expense as well.
The laws concerning second parent adoption can be complex and it’s best to have an experienced attorney by your side to guide you through the process. Based in Salem, Litowich Law is committed to providing clients throughout Oregon with high-quality legal services and compassionate counsel for a wide variety of adoption matters. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help.