Same Sex Parents Still Face Legal Complications

At gay pride marches around the country this month, there will be celebrations of marriage, a national right that, at just two years old, feels freshly exuberant to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

But while questions of marriage are largely settled, same sex parents still face a patchwork of laws around the country that define who is and who can be a parent. This introduces a rash of complications about where L.G.B.T.Q. couples may want to live and how they form their families, an array of uncertainties straight couples do not have to think about.

“There are very different laws from state to state in terms of how parents are protected, especially if they’re unmarried,” said Cathy Sakimura, deputy director and family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “You can be completely respected and protected as a family in one state and be a complete legal stranger to your children in another. To know that you could drive into another state and not be considered a parent anymore, that’s a pretty terrifying situation.”gay parents adoption

Adoption laws, for example, can be extremely contradictory. In some states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, adoption agencies are expressly prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation. At the same time, other states, like South Dakota, have laws that create religious exemptions for adoption providers, allowing agencies to refuse to place children in circumstances that violate the groups’ religious beliefs.

Alan Solano, a state senator in South Dakota, sponsored his state’s adoption legislation. He said he was concerned that if those groups were forced to let certain families adopt, they might get out of the adoption business entirely, shrinking the number of placement agencies in the state.

“I wanted to ensure that we have the greatest number of providers that are working on placing children,” Mr. Solano said. “I’m not coming out and saying that somebody in the L.G.B.T. community should not be eligible for getting a child placed with them. What I hope is that we have organizations out there that are ready and willing to assist them in doing these adoptions.”

But as a practical matter, lawyers who specialize in L.G.B.T.Q. family law say that in some areas, religiously affiliated adoption organizations are the only ones within a reasonable distance. Moreover, they say, such laws harm children who need homes by narrowing the pool of people who can adopt them, and they are discriminatory.

“There is a very serious hurt caused when you’re told, ‘No, we don’t serve your kind here,’ and I think that gets lost in the public discourse a lot,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. “There’s just this narrative that absolutely ignores, and almost dehumanizes, L.G.B.T. people. They’re missing from the equation here.”

There are a number of laws that can affect L.G.B.T.Q. families, from restrictions on surrogacy to custody, and the landscape is constantly shifting.

by Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times – June 20, 2017

Click here to read the entire article.

Second Parent Adoption Necessity: Securing Parentage in Uncertain Times

Second parent adoption necessity has become the primary topic of discussion for me both at work and in my private life. 

Is there a second parent adoption necessity?  Everyone wants to know whether their family is safe.  Since January 2017, I have received more calls from parents who have not gone through the second parent adoption process for whatever reason and are now concerned that their children may be the ones who suffer from the lack of clear and incontrovertible parentage; a parentage that second parent adoption provides.

Why do I have to adopt my own child?  Many gay and lesbian parents are asking this question when attempting to understand the second parent adoption necessity.  In New York, married lesbian couples who have used anonymous sperm donors are allowed to be listed as a parent on their child’s birth certificate.  Gay couples who have children with the help of a surrogate mother may have petitioned for and received a pre or post-birth order declaring them the legal parents of their children.  They may also be on their children’s birth certificate.  So why is second parent adoption a necessity?second parent adoption necessity

The answer to this question is perhaps the most confounding that I have had to provide clients and friends.  If you can guarantee that your relationship will never end in divorce or dissolution and that, if it does, both individuals will prioritize the best interests of the child first and foremost, then perhaps you can get by without a second parent adoption.  But the reality of a relationship ending is never certain and, unfortunately, the non-genetically related parent is vulnerable to what may be costly and emotionally terrifying consequences.  While the few cases we have seen that have addressed the issue of the validity of a pre or post-birth order have ultimately upheld those orders, those cases cost the litigants tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This is because every jurisdiction has different laws around parentage, some more friendly than others.

With a second parent adoption, there is no question about the parentage rights of a non-genetically related parent.  Even with recent New York case law protecting non-adoptive lesbian parents, there remains questions about what rights other than the standing to sue for custody and visitation exist without adoption.  Federal social security benefits attach to “natural or adopted” children.  Inheritance rights attach to “natural or adopted” children.  Without adoption, future clarification will be needed to accurately assess when parentage exists.

Assisted Reproductive Technology and Gay Families – Sometimes it feels  like we are all just waiting for the law to catch up to how gay and lesbian couples have their families.  One recent decision from Brooklyn, Kings County Family Court to be precise, describes this issue masterfully and concludes that second parent adoption is the one way to ensure that couples are protected as state courts and legislatures grapple with assisted reproductive technology (ART) issues.

While the court in this decision confirms that a parental relationship exists in most cases with or without the adoption, it also holds that married gay and lesbian couples are entitled to second parent adoptions to expel any doubt about parentage and to protect families, particularly when they travel throughout the country and around the world.  The good news is that in many states, New York included, a marriage is not a prerequisite for a second parent adoption.

Whether you are a lesbian couple with a known donor or an anonymous donor, or whether you are a gay couple with a surrogate mother and a pre or post-birth order, the second parent adoption necessity is very real.  Second parent adoption is the right choice to make to protect your family from any future uncertainties.

For more information, email me at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com or visit www.timeforfamilies.com for more information.

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NY Family Court – “children’s best interests are served through second parent adoptions”

“So long as uncertainty persists in this country and abroad about the status of children conceived by same-sex couples using assisted reproduction, children’s best interests are served through second parent adoptions confirming what already should be crystal clear everywhere: the legal parental status of the second non-biological parent.”

(New York, October 12, 2016) — A New York family court issued a decision last week affirming that married lesbian couples continue to be entitled to second parent adoptions to give added security to their children, who already are entitled to have both spouses recognized as their parents. The court’s decision came after Lambda Legal and its co-counsel submitted a legal memo last month on behalf of four couples, all from Brooklyn, who had sought adoptions to safeguard their children. The Court’s decision also confirms that children born to married same-sex spouses in the state have two legal parents, with or without adoptions and regardless of genetics.gay fathers

“The Court ruling is very clear that children born to married same-sex couples already have two legal parents,” said Susan Sommer, National Director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal. “But so long as uncertainty persists in this country and abroad about the status of children conceived by same-sex couples using assisted reproduction, children’s best interests are served through second parent adoptions confirming what already should be crystal clear everywhere: the legal parental status of the second non-biological parent. Children have a right to both of their parents, and taking a ‘belt and suspenders’ approach is the best way to secure that right. As this decision confirms, the courts have the authority and responsibility to issue second parent adoptions for children in these families.”

Lambda Legal filed the memo on behalf of four married lesbian couples who had petitioned the family court for second parent adoptions of children they conceived using assisted reproductive technology. Each of these couples planned for and intend to raise their children together, even though only one of the two parents is genetically related to her child. As the legal parents of the children, they are entitled to all the rights and responsibilities that come with being a parent in New York and anywhere they may travel with their children. But because the laws that define parenthood vary from state to state, these couples sought the added security of adoption decrees to confirm the parent-child bond for the non-biological parent.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell affirmed that same-sex couples and their children across the country are entitled to all the protections that come through marriage, but some states, like North Carolina<http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/nc_weiss-v-braer> and South Carolina, where Lambda Legal is litigating, have resisted giving full recognition to those rights. And disparities persist around the nation in laws about assisted reproduction, making parents wise to seek the extra security of second parent adoptions.

The Court’s decision confirmed that married same-sex spouses using assisted reproduction are both the legal parents of their children, with or without adoptions, and that genetics and adoption aren’t the determinants of parentage. The Court also acknowledged the lingering uncertainties and resistance to parenting rights for same-sex couples in the U.S. and abroad, and thus the importance of access to second parent adoptions for these families. Finally, the decision confirmed the courts’ ongoing authority to grant adoptions to spouses who already are the legal parents of their children under New York’s marital presumption of parentage.

Lambda Legal was joined on the memorandum of law by the following co-counsel, who represented the families in their adoption proceedings:  Teresa D. Calabrese; Rebecca L. Mendel of Rosin Steinhagen Mendel; Melissa B. Brisman and Nancy M. Hartzband of Melissa B. Brisman, Esq., LLC; and Andy Izenson of Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC.

Read the memo. http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/ny_20161012_memorandum-law-judicial-authority

Read the decision. http://www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/legal-docs/ny_20161012_matter-of-l

Study Says Women in Lesbian Relationships Feel More Parental Stress

A Williams Institute study from the University of California Los Angeles has found women in lesbian relationships feel more parental stress than straight couples.

Ninety-five lesbian parent households were compared with 95 straight parent households to “compare same-sex and different-sex parent households with stable, continuously coupled parents and their biological offspring.”
The study found that in terms of the children’s emotional difficulties, coping behaviors and learning behaviors, there was no difference between those raised in the different households.
However, lesbian parents did experience higher stress levels.parental stress
“Some of our earlier studies have shown that lesbian mothers feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting because of their sexual orientation,” psychiatrist and co-author of the research, Dr. Nanette Gartrell said.
In the study, parents from both households were matched for characteristics such as age, urban or rural residence, their children’s age, race and gender and whether the parents or children were born in the United States or elsewhere.
Gartrell focused on lesbian couples because there were smaller numbers of male same-sex couples that fit the criteria. The families studied showed no history of family instability or transitions such as divorce or separation and all parents had been raising their own biological children from 6 to 17 from birth.
“This study is consistent with the literature over the last 30 years, with the overwhelming consensus that kids do better with two parents than one parents, and that there’s very little difference in long-term mental health for kids when their raised by either same-sex or different-sex parents,” psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and editor of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, Dr. Jack Drescher said.
It’s estimated that 690,000 same-sex couples live in the United States and 19 percent of them are raising children under 18.

Click here to read the entire article.

by Kelly Morris, TheNextFamily.com – May 24, 2016

Lesbian Family, Megan and Candice Berrett, does Epic Gender Reveal for Second Baby

Thank you to Megan and Candice Berret for sharing your story in such a wonderful way.

Megan and Candice Berrett reveal the gender of their new baby with Beyonce’s ‘Who Run the World.’

Thank you to Megan and Candice Berrett for sharing your story in such a wonderful way.

Please watch to the end and I guarantee that you’ll be dancing and smiling along with the GIRLS!  This creative gender reveal shows exactly why our children grow up as happy and loved as children from non-gay families.

If you have a creative gender reveal video you’d like to share, send it to Anthony@timeforfamilies.com or visit my contact me page and I’ll post it on my site.   Good luck Megan and Candice Berrett with you new…???

 

 

 

 

Two Moms Talk About Second Parent Adoption

Not all LGBT parents in the U.S. can put both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificate.  Second Parent adoption can help.

And even if they can, many lawyers still advise that gay couples go through a second parent adoption as a means to protect their parental rights to their children.

Brandy and Susan from The Next Family discuss their second parent adoption experience so other LGBT parents can gain some insight.

The moms explain the importance of second parent adoption by providing the example of traveling internationally to countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage or families. By going through the process, step parent adoptions give both parents the same rights to their children thus protecting them in the U.S., overseas, and even in custody cases.second parent adoption

“And at the end of the day, I think it’s wise to do it,” Brandy said.

Though she does share her displeasure with the entire process that LGBT parents have to go through that straight parents do not:

“We fight so hard for our LGBT rights and we’ve gotten to this point and this place in our country…and [step parent adoptions] sort of takes you back. Like, really?”

Brandy and Susan explain the process that their family went through when it came to their step parent adoption. It involved finding a good lawyer, filling out an adoption application, and speaking with a social worker.

When speaking about the social worker experience, Brandy said, “They were asking us sort of ridiculous, in my opinion, parenting questions.” She also adds that you should prepare yourself for this experience which may be uncomfortable: “I think it was really insulting to me that they were asking her these questions and me these questions and I had had this child and we had together made this decision together to have this child.”

Following the social worker meeting, families will have to go to court to complete the adoption process.

For Susan’s court date, the judge asked her, “Why should I grant you this right to adopt this child?” Susan said she responded quite awkwardly with, “Well, I’m kind of doing a lot of mother things.” She was happy though with how the judge responded, “You’re the mother and that’s why I’m doing it.” Susan said she could tell that the judge thought that the entire process was also a “silly precursor” to establish her parental rights.

Click here to read the entire article.

By Alex Temblador – TheNextFamily.com – April 15, 2016

Coca-Cola Will Offer More Inclusive Parental Leave, Including Surrogacy

Citing the influence of its millennial employees and the need to promote gender equality at work, Coca-Cola on Monday announced a far more inclusive paid parental leave policy.

 

Previously, Coke only gave six to eight weeks paid parental leave to female employees who gave birth. But starting in January, all new parents at Coke — including dads, adoptive and foster parents — will be entitled to six weeks off upon the arrival of their kids. Birth mothers will also be entitled to an additional six to eight weeks leave. The new benefit is not available to unionized Coke workers. Overall 40,000 employees are eligible, out of 60,000 in the U.S.2nd parent adoption, second parent adoption, second parent adoptions, second parent adoption new york

“Fostering an inclusive workplace means valuing all parents – no matter their gender or sexual orientation,” Ceree Eberly, Coke’s chief people officer, said in an announcement on the company’s website. “We think the most successful way to structure benefits to help working families is to make them gender-neutral and encourage both moms and dads to play an active role in their family lives.”

The company, which took in $44 billion in revenue last year, said the policy was “championed” by a formal group of millennial employees who had been asked to come up with ideas for attracting and retaining younger workers. By 2020, Coke expects more than half of its workforce will be of the “millennial generation,” born between 1981 and 1997.

HuffingtonPost.com, April 18, 2016, by Emily Peck

Click here to read the entire article.

Family Time With Frank, John and Zachary

John and Frank live in Oakland Park with their four-year-old son, Zachary. In 2012, the couple fostered Zachary right out of the hospital after he was born and then 18 months later, Frank adopted him as a single father and they became a gay family.

John is from San Francisco. He recently graduated from college and works in human resources. Frank is from New York. He is a registered nurse at Broward General Medical Center and a former New York firefighter. In fact, he was one of the initial responders on 9/11. The couple met eight years ago playing softball.

The two got married in Broward County just after midnight on Jan. 6.2nd parent adoption, second parent adoption, second parent adoptions, second parent adoption new york

In addition to the legal benefits, a huge motivating factor for the couple getting married was so John could join Frank as Zachary’s legal father on his son’s birth certificate. In many cases, unmarried gay couples were not allowed to adopt in Florida, with single fathers having to pass off their significant other as a “roommate”.

“(Before) If something happened to Frank, I wouldn’t have (had) a place to live and I would (have) lost Zachary,” John said.  Meet this gay family!

Visit gayswithkids.com.

New York Surrogacy – The State of the State

Many LGBT individuals and couples are turning to surrogacy to have their families. New York surrogacy is complicated and evolving, but there is hope on the horizon.

Surrogacy is defined and the act of a woman, altruistic in nature, of gestating and giving birth to a child with the intention of giving that child to the intended parent or parents. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate mother is also the egg donor and the child is biologically related to her. With a gestational surrogacy, a fertilized egg is implanted into the womb of the surrogate and she is not biologically related to the child. Most surrogates today are gestational surrogates.

Currently in New York State, The Domestic Relations Law, Article 8, Section 123 essentially criminalizes compensated New York surrogacy. The law states that no person may request, accept or facilitate the receipt of compensation for a surrogacy arrangement. The law does, however, allow for “altruistic” surrogacy, or non-compensated surrogacy, and authorizes limited reimbursement payments for medical and legal costs related to the surrogacy. But the law does not stop there. Lawyers who facilitate compensated surrogacy agreements can lose their licenses and be convicted of a felony. Monetary sanctions from $500.00 to $10,000.00 are also possible. This does not mean that gay individuals and couples in New York cannot enter into a compensated surrogacy contract. It means that the surrogate cannot live, or more importantly give birth, in New York State, forcing them to incur extra costs of traveling to other states in order to support their surrogate mother.

gay surrogacy

The good news is that a group of advocates and attorneys have created a solution to this problem. It is called the Child Parent Security Act (CPSA), a law that would not only legalize and regulate compensated New York surrogacy, but would also allow for the issuance of parentage orders to secure the parental rights of the non-genetically related parent. Currently, non-genetically related parents must have a second or step parent adoption to protect their families. As of this post, the CPSA is stuck in committee in the New York legislature, held back due to certain legislators’ misunderstanding of surrogacy. Many of these legislators are staunch supporters of the rights of the LGBT community; however, surrogacy for them is a “hot button” issue, as it currently is in Europe.

If you are thinking about surrogacy to have your family, there are a few legal issues you should know about prior to signing any contracts. The most important is that compensated surrogacy is governed by the laws of the state where your surrogate lives, or where she gives birth. It is critical to be aware of these ever changing laws and make sure that the current law is incorporated into your gestational carrier (GC) contract. These contracts will contain such other provisions as: a mandate for medical and psychological testing, details of conception and abstinence for the GC and her partner or spouse, termination of GC’s parental rights, provisions for death or divorce of intended parents (IPs), payment of expenses, compensation, review of GC’s health insurance, breach and remedy procedures, selective reduction provisions to name just a few. These contracts are purposefully dense as their purpose is to cover any and all possible situations that may arise in the relationship IPs will have with their surrogate. It is critical that you have an attorney who is versed in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) law to assist you in the drafting and review of your surrogacy contract.

Finally, for those considering New York surrogacy, make sure to read through the Men Having Babies Framework of Ethical Guidelines for Intended Parents, an invaluable document created to assist IPs in navigating the process with dignity and awareness of your surrogate mother’s needs through the process. If you are looking for an attorney in New York who specializes in helping same sex couples have families, call Anthony M. Brown, head of Nontraditional Family and Estates division of Albert W. Chianese & Associations, at 212-953-6447 or email questions to Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

LGBT Parental Rights: A new family form but an old question

LGBT parental rights in a changing world.  Will the law catch up to our families?

Lesbian couples raising children conceived through assisted reproduction made front-page news last month when the Supreme Court rebuked Alabama’s refusal to recognize the Georgia adoption decree that made two women legal parents of the couple’s three children. On Tuesday, the Maryland Court of Appeals will take up a related issue.  LGBT parental rights are in the news.

In 2009, after nine years together, Michelle Conover, a transgender man now known as Michael Conover, and Brittany Eckel decided to have a child. They used Shady Grove Fertility Center, selecting semen from an anonymous donor chosen for characteristics similar to Conover. Eckel was inseminated, and, in April 2010, Jaxon was born and given Conover’s last name. Conover was present at Jaxon’s birth and was his stay-at-home parent. When Jaxon was 5 months old, the couple married. About a year later, they separated, although they continued to raise Jaxon together until Eckel allegedly cut off Conover’s access. In their subsequent divorce action, Conover sought visitation rights, but the trial court and the Court of Special Appeals ruled that he was not Jaxon’s legal parent and, as a third party, not entitled to continue his relationship with him.

lesbian family law

The family form is new, but the legal question in the case is not: Who is a child’s legal parent? Extramarital affairs and nonmarital births have always provided challenges for courts grappling with that question, but assisted reproduction has added another dimension.

When married heterosexual couples with an infertile husband began using donor semen in the mid-20th century, some courts called the practice adultery, and legal authorities opined that the child was “illegitimate.” The result was statutory reform in many states, including Maryland, delineating that a child conceived through a married woman’s insemination with the consent of her husband is the “legitimate” child of both of them.

Several state courts have read those statutes to apply to the child of a married lesbian couple. But what about Jaxon, whose parents were not married when he was born? Unmarried couples — gay and straight — now regularly use assisted reproduction. The District has recognized since 2009 that a child born to a married or unmarried couple that uses donor insemination is the legal child of both members of the couple. Had Jaxon been born in a D.C. hospital, Eckel and Conover would both be listed as his parents on his birth certificate.

Washington Post – April 3, 2016, by Nancy Polikoff

Click here to read the entire article.