Estate Planning for Dummies – The Important Steps You May Have Already Taken

Estate Planning for Dummies explains the most basic estate planning tools, many of which you may have already implemented without even knowing it.

Estate planning for dummies is a misnomer.  Because the premise of this article is that you may have sufficient estate planning in place, you are clearly not dummies.  But understanding how to make the most of your estate plan, will ensure that you and your family are protected in case the unforeseen occurs.

Do I need a Will?”  This is usually the first question asked by clients.  The short answer is yes and, to better understand why, it is important to know the protections that a Will provides.  A Last Will and Testament is the cornerstone to a comprehensive estate plan.  Whether you have children or not you do have assets.  Depending on their size, more complex planning may be required.  But the key to knowing whether you have unwittingly begun work on your estate plan, you must know what property passes under a Will.estate planning basics

Probate Asset v. Non-Probate Assets

Wills cover probate assets, or assets held solely in your name. Examples include real property, bank accounts and personal belongings. Personal belongings are key because many people do not like the idea of a distant relative rooting through their most cherished items after death. Wills do not pass non-probate assets, or assets held jointly with someone else (like a bank account or real property held as a married couple or as joint tenants), assets held in trust for someone else or any asset that has a designated beneficiary, like an insurance policy, a 401(k) or an IRA retirement plan.

The goal of a good estate plan for a married couple is to maximize you non-probate asset designations.  If done correctly, there will be no need for a probate process upon the death of the first spouse.  Probate is the process by which the state of a decedent ensures that their Last Will and Testament was drafted and executed correctly, that the assets and debts of the decedent, the person who died, are identified, that the debts are paid and the assets are distributed according the decedent’s Will. The New York probate process governs the transfer of legal title of property from the estate of the person who has died to those named in that person’s Last Will and Testament.

If you are married and your home is listed in both spouses’ names, then the house will pass automatically to the surviving spouse with no need for probate.  Likewise, if you have joint bank accounts, the assets in those accounts pass outside of probate.

right of survivorship, JTWROS, joint tenantsMany city couples rent their apartments, making their most valuable assets their investment or retirement accounts.  For these investment vehicles, you may name your spouse, or partner if you are unmarried, as a designated beneficiary.  You may also name multiple designated beneficiaries as long as the percentage allocations are clear to the administrator of the investment/retirement account.

Estate planning for dummies = the maximization of non-probate asset designations.  It is the best tool you have to avoid probate.  And while this type of specific planning may allay the need for a Will, it is always a good idea to have a Will in place, even if you do not need to put that Will through probate.  If you are unmarried, it is of particular importance that you have a Will because the protections of marriage, which include naming the surviving spouse as the default beneficiary of a decedent’s assets, will not apply to you and your partner.

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

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In win for gay couples, Maryland high court recognizes de facto parents rights

Maryland’s highest court has ruled that non-biological parents, de facto parents,  who live with and help raise children also have parental rights, overturning a 2008 decision that gay and lesbian advocates considered devastating to same-sex couples.

In a unanimous ruling issued Thursday, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that family-court judges can consider whether persons are de facto parents in custody and visitation cases. Advocates say Maryland was one of a few states that considered such parents strangers in the eyes of the law.

De facto parents can include the partner of a lesbian who undergoes artificial insemination, a gay man whose partner adopts a child from a country that does not allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt, or a straight man who raises a child with a woman for years without formal adoption.gay parents adoption

Until the 2008 court decision, such people generally had the ability to maintain some parental rights in Maryland even when their relationships with their partners crumbled.

Then the Court of Appeals ruled against a Baltimore County woman who sought custody or visitation rights with a girl who had been adopted by her ex-partner. The court said “third party” parents should not be treated differently from other third parties seeking custody. That meant they would need to show exceptional circumstances or that the legal parent was unfit in order to be awarded time with children they had helped raise.

This week’s ruling concerned a different case and reversed the precedent set by the court in 2008. Denying rights to third-party parents “is ‘clearly wrong’ and has been undermined by the passage of time,” Judge Sally Adkins wrote in the decision.

LGBT advocates hailed the ruling for correcting what they saw as a continuing injustice against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, even after voters legalized same-sex marriage in 2012.

“Now Maryland joins the majority of other states in taking those parents and children out of limbo and putting them in solid legal footing,” said Jer Welter, a lawyer with FreeState Justice who represented plaintiff Michael Conover in the case ruled on this week.

Mr. Conover is a transgender man who had married a woman before undergoing his gender transition. Their wedding took place in the District, which legalized same-sex marriage before Maryland did. Courts treated him and his ex-wife as a same-sex couple for the purpose of the dispute.

Brittany Conover gave birth in 2010 to a child, Jaxon, who was fathered by a sperm donor selected with the input of Mr. Conover, then known as Michelle, according to court records. The couple separated the next year and divorced in 2013.

Ms. Conover stopped allowing her spouse to visit in 2012. She argued in a later custody battle that her former partner never adopted Jaxon and was not listed as a parent on the child’s birth certificate.

Lower courts agreed that Mr. Conover lacked parental rights. The Court of Appeals ruling returns the case to a Washington County judge with the concept of a de facto parent restored in law.

“I am elated that the state’s highest court has ruled that people like me should have our relationships with our children legally protected,” Mr. Conover said in a statement.

R. Martin Palmer Jr., an attorney for Ms. Conover, said the court usurped the role of lawmakers in defining a parent and may have created a situation in which stepfathers can take control of children from capable mothers.

By Fenit Nirappil / The Washington Post, July 9, 2016

Click here to read the entire article.

Why seeing my gay son enter parenthood with twins made our relationship stronger

Early last month, my husband and I became grandparents for the first time, when my son and his husband became the fathers of twins.

There is a plethora of options for a gay couple to explore when they are considering parenthood. Adoption? Co-parenting? Surrogacy? Who will donate the egg and/or sperm? What are the legalities? And where do you even start such a process?

I am so very grateful — perhaps relieved is a better word — that my son and his husband live in a city with a large LGBTQ population. This has meant that from the moment they knew they wanted to become parents, they had access to a wealth of knowledge and experience. This is knowledge and experience that my husband and I, for lack of personal experience, simply couldn’t help them with.

The conversations I had with my son and son-in-law while they were taking their Daddies & Papas 2B program at a local LGBTQ community centre in downtown Toronto were some of most intimate and emotional conversations I have ever had with him. The roles in our relationship were completely reversed: the child was teaching the parent.Twins

It was a special time in my relationship with my son, and I will always cherish it.

You know who was even happier than John and me about the thought of babies? Our own parents. My father lived long enough to see my son marry the man he loved, but never knew that he would be the first of our three boys to have children. Still, the twins now have three great-grandparents who are healthy, and so very proud to talk about — and advocate for — gay marriage and same-sex parenthood.

I got to watch my mother hold a newborn girl named after her, and her great-grandson, named for my son’s grandfather-in-law. She marvelled at their perfection, and talked about the modern miracle of these babies’ conception and births through the egg donation of my son-in-law’s sister, and the generosity of a surrogate mother who carried the twins healthily to term. It was one of the most perfect moments in my life.

Sharing love. Sharing challenges. Supporting one another. Sharing wonder. This is how we family.

My grandchildren were born in June, which also happens to be Pride Month. What will they know of the struggles that brought us to the place where their daddies could be legally married? Will they know why, when PFLAG – the national organization to help with issues of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression – walks down Yonge Street during the Pride Parade in Toronto, men and women who are watching the parade from the sidewalk hold each other and sob?

My grandchildren are the son and daughter of two men who love each other so much that they were willing to take on the challenge of creating a family of their own in a world where that can be difficult, and resistant to such a thing. Financially, it is overwhelming. The legal paperwork is daunting. The persistence, the determination, the multitude of conversations, considerations and decisions that they tackled to get to parenthood makes me hopeful for their children. These babies are so wanted, and so deeply loved.

The day the twins were born, at around five in the evening, my husband and I assumed new roles. Since then I’ve been thinking of all of the books I’ll read to the children, and the songs we’ll sing. I’ll teach them to bake their father’s favourite cookies. I’ll take them to Young People’s Theatre. We’ll hike and we’ll bike. My husband is building special kid-friendly farm scenes into his model train set. In other words, we’ll become like any other loving grandparents who hope to do right by their children’s children — with one particular difference.

One Saturday night earlier this month, a gunman walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., reminding us that the world is still a dangerous place for LGBTQ people, and for the people who love them.

He reminded me that as a mother, as a grandmother, and most basically as a human being, I have a responsibility to fight homophobia and transphobia.

Of course I am an ally — but in order to call myself an ally I have to be an active one. In doing things like walking with PFLAG in Toronto’s annual Pride Parade and in writing about my family, I am taking a stand for my son and his husband. I am vocally supporting all of the same- sex marriages and partnerships and the “gayby babies” that may result from those relationships.

June 29, 2016 by Patti Paddle, TVO.org

Click here to read the entire article.

Adoption For Gay Couples is Still the Best Answer – The Message of Matter of Kelly S. v. Farah M.

Does this case render adoption for gay couples as unnecessary or is it simply an affirmation of another state’s more progressive parentage laws?

There has never been a stronger case for adoption for gay couples than Matter of Kelly S. v. Farah M.  I reported this week about a case out of the Second Department Appellate Division in New York affirming a Suffolk County Family Court decision granting visitation to a non-biological lesbian mother. At first glance, this appears to create new law in New York, doing away with previous NY law holding that a non-biological mother does not have standing to seek custody or visitation.  But on further inspection, its true message is that the only way to avoid costly and bitter court battles is through adoption for gay couples.

adoption for gay couples

Facts of the case – Kelly Steagall and Farah Martin met and entered into a relationship in 2000 and became registered domestic partners in California in 2004. They were legally married there in 2008.  Ms. Martin conceived two children through artificial insemination who were born in March of 2007 and April of 2009.  The couple used the same known donor for each child and, instead of using a doctor or fertility clinic to assist with the insemination, they privately inseminated at home.  After moving to New York in 2012, the couple separated in 2013 and Kelly moved to Arizona.  Kelly filed a visitation petition in Suffolk County New York in 2014.

Ms. Martin objected to Ms. Steagall’s status as a legal parent stating that New York law did not support her position and, in what the court saw a self-serving move, sued the known donor to establish that he was the other “true” parent.

What the court said – Appellate division Judge Roman, in her affirmation of the lower Family Court’s ruling, stated that because the couple was in a registered domestic partnership and subsequent marriage in California when the children were born, California law, which is far more progressive that New York family law, should govern and therefore, Ms. Steagall’s parentage could be recognized under California law.

New York Law – In New York County, Surrogate Judge Kristin Booth Glen, in a case entitled In the Matter of Sebastian, discusses the issue of establishing parental rights for a non-biological parent specifically.  The case involves married lesbian couple who used an anonymous sperm donor to have a child. Glen concludes, when discussing the non-biological mother’s relationship with the child that, “the only remedy available here that would accord the parties full and unassailable protection is a second-parent adoption pursuant to New York Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) § 111 et seq.”  Glen further states, “that a judicial order of adoption in one state must be afforded full faith and credit in every state, and that there can be no “public Policy” exception to that mandatory recognition…”.

This case essentially relies on a marital presumption of parentage. In California, a registered domestic partnership at the time was viewed for all intents and purposes as a marriage.  While it is true that many states have what is called a “martial presumption of parentage,” it is applied differently in different states.  In New York State, there is specific case law that holds that the marital presumption of parentage does not apply to same-sex couples.  That case is called “Matter of Paczkowski v. Paczkowski.”  In that case, the appellate division of the Second Department of New York, the same court that decided the Matter of Kelly S. v. Farah M., held that the “presumption of legitimacy… is one of a biological relationship, not a legal status.”

In essence, the court says that a marriage does not create a legal right between a non-biological parent and a child.  While it may be an indication of intent to be a parent, as would a non-biological parent’s name on a birth certificate, the only way to actually create the legal relationship that guarantees the security that all same-sex families need, is through adoption for gay couples, and in some states, a parentage order.  Unfortunately, New York currently does not have the capacity to issue a parentage order but there is legislation in committee in Albany that may change that.

How does this case affect Gay couples? – The take away from this case may not be what many of us in the LGBT legal community want, particularly in New York. While the language in the decision is expansive and is certainly heading in the right direction, it does not change the law in New York.  Had Kelly Steagall and Farah Martin lived in New York, conceived and gave birth to their children in New York, the outcome of this case could have been vastly different and Kelly Steagall would still, under current New York law, have had to fight in the courts for visitation to the children she had helped to raise since their birth.  No one factors into their family equation to emotional and financial costs of fighting to see the children to whom they area  parent, nor should they.  But the reality of the situation is much more nuanced.  If you are a New York resident, second or step parent adoption for gay couples is the best and only way to ensure that the emotional and financial costs of litigation can be avoided.

Anthony M. Brown, head of Nontraditional Family and Estates division of Albert W. Chianese & Associations, has extensive experience in helping same-sex couples through the adoption process, having gone through the process himself. If you have yet to create a legal relationship with your child or children, call 212-953-6447 or email Anthony at Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

Same-Sex Parents (and Our Kids) Speak Out

Same-sex relationship recognition is up for a vote in both Italy and Switzerland in the coming weeks—and same-sex parents are, not surprisingly, helping to push for equality. And in Australia, one 11-year-old girl is speaking out for her family.

Italy’s civil union bill comes up for a vote next Tuesday, and includes a provision that would allow for second-parent (or stepchild) adoptions. Martina and Julia, a same-sex parents of an infant live in Rome and were profiled in Vanity Fair Italy about their family. They discuss the 13 attempts in two countries (Denmark and England) to create their son, the community they found through the national organization for LGBT parents, Famiglie Arcobaleno (Rainbow Families), how they have tried to legally protect their family, and their response to those who oppose equality for families like theirs. (Google Translate does a decent, though not perfect, job for those who don’t read Italian.)

mombian

The New York Times, in its coverage of the Italian civil union debate, also led with a parenting story, that of Dario De Gregorio and Andrea Rubera. The men married in Canada, became parents of three children, then returned to their native Italy where their relationship was not recognized and custody of their children was divided because they could not adopt each other’s biological kids. The stepchild adoption provision of the civil union bill, however, may be “too far-reaching” for some legislators, the NYT reports.

CNN followed the NYT and a few days later dug further into De Gregorio and Rubera’s story in “Gay dads hope Italy approves law on same-sex civil unions and parenthood.” Rubera told CNN that opponents of civil unions say “You stole your kids, you stole your kids from their mother. You denied to your kids to have a mother, you bought your kids from the supermarket like watermelons.” He adds, “It’s difficult to imagine if you aren’t living in Italy … how strong and awful the public debate about civil unions has become.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Mombian.com, January 29, 2016

Gay adoption facts for protecting your family

Gay adoption facts for protecting your family

As the laws in New York struggle to keep up with marriage equality, many families are left feeling vulnerable and confused about making sure their family and parental rights are as legally protected as their marriage. Here are a few gay adoption facts and common concerns and what you need to know.

We are ready to adopt a child and looking for gay adoption facts. Can adopt as a couple?

Yes. Same sex couples in New York can jointly petition for adoption, and they need not be married. This may, however, vary by state. If planning to adopt outside of New York, you will need to check the specific state laws.

We are married and having a child through surrogacy or artificial insemination. Is the non biological parent required to adopt our child separately?

In short, yes. Even though the names of both parents may be on the birth certificate, this does not automatically give the non biological parent a legal connection to their child. It’s important to create that legal bond through a stepparent adoption in the event that the relationship dissolves or the biological parent becomes deceased or incapacitated so that the non biological parent can legally maintain a relationship with the child.

How do I know which type of adoption to petition for?gay couple adoption, gay couples adopting, gay adoption facts, gay adoption statistics, lgbt adoption rights, adoption rights, gay adoption rights, gay adoptions

If you’re adopting a child together, a joint adoption will create a legal bond between the child and both parents and is in most cases the best option. If you plan on adopting the biological or adopted child of your partner, whether you are using a surrogate, sperm donor, or your partner already had a biological or adopted child, the specific type of adoption generally depends on whether there is another legal parent already established. If you and your partner are married, generally you would go through the stepparent adoption process. If you are unmarried, you would petition under the co parent or 2nd parent adoption process.

Do I need to track down the other biological parent to consent?

If you had a child through a joint adoption, then typically both parents of the child have already given up their parental rights. In the case of either artificial insemination or surrogacy, legal parentage may be addressed and established prior to the child’s birth and is much simpler if the other biological parent has already given up their legal parental rights. An “adoption surrender” may be needed if the other biological parent has never legally given up their parental rights, or if the child had another adoptive parent in the past.

Will the adoption be valid across state lines?

Yes. Once legal parentage is established through adoption, that child-parent relationship will be recognized nationally.

 

The main point to remember about gay adoption facts for families is to make sure that both parents have established a legal relationship with their children. Anthony M. Brown, the head of Nontraditional Family and Estates division of Albert W. Chianese & Associations, is here to help you make sure that the legal bond of your family reflects your emotional and parental bond. He can help you decide the best course of action to protect your parental rights. Call 212-953-6447 or email me to answer any questions you may have about protecting your family!

The Essential Nature of Second Parent Adoption

What is Second Parent Adoption?

Second parent adoption (also sometimes known as co-parent adoption) is the administrative process through which one partner in a same-sex relationship can become the legally recognized parent of their partner’s biological or adopted child, along with their partner and without the other partner’s parental rights being terminated. Although morally parents should not have to adopt their own children, for whom they planned either biologically through their partner or through adoption, it is strongly advisable to go through this process in order to ensure the security of the child in case of the initial parent’s death, and for logistical purposes when parental responsibility is required in legal, medical and other situations. This is advisable even if the parents are married or in a civil union, as some States and countries do not recognize the legal relationship of the parents to be an indicator of their relationship to their child. Second parent adoption is usually the process taken by unmarried couples, as step-parent adoption is available for those adopting their spouse’s child.

 

Why choose Second Parent Adoption?

Second parent adoptions are widely viewed by LGBT legal rights experts as the best option for children, as it has been found that it increases emotional, psychological, legal and financial security. It is common to think that if you are married or in a civil partnership, you are legally safe when it comes to your rights as a parent. In some places, this is true. New York, for example, recognizes both same-sex partners as parents of a child without second parent adoption being a legal requirement. If, however, you ever want to visit relatives in a different State or go travelling to a different country, it is essential that you are legally recognized as the parent on an international level. Your legal parental status affects decisions such as your child’s healthcare, where they go to school and who would look after them in case of parental death. In 2014 a controversial decision was reached by a Judge in New York, who refused to grant a second parent adoption based on the fact that the couple’s rights were protected whilst they remained in New York.

 

Differences in State Law

Although every State must allow adults in same-sex relationships to petition for secondSame-sex Parenting Wins Increased Rights in Oklahoma parent adoption if the partners are married, the same does not apply for those in relationships that are not legally binding. Fourteen States currently allow the process for non-married same-sex partners:

California; Colorado; Connecticut; District of Columbia; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Maine; Massachusetts; New Jersey; New York; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania and Vermont.

These fourteen further States have allowed the process for couples at some point:

Alaska; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Iowa; Louisiana; Maryland; Minnesota; Oregon; Rhode Island; Texas; Washington and West Virginia.

There are also States that prohibit or limit fostering and adoption by LGBT adults. The current limitations include:

 

  1. The Alabama Court of Appeals ruled that (unmarried) same-sex couples cannot use the stepparent adoption procedures. However, married same-sex spouses must be allowed to do so.
  2. Arizona gives a preference to married couples over a single adult in adoption placement.
  3. The Kansas Court of Appeals recently ruled that Kansas does not permit second parent or co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  4. A Kentucky court has said that Kentucky does not permit unmarried couples to use the stepparent adoption procedures.
  5. Mississippi has a statute that prohibits adoptions by couples of the same gender, but under the Supreme Court ruling, Mississippi must allow same-sex spouses to adopt on equal terms with other married couples.
  6. Nebraska does not permit co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  7. North Carolina does not permit co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  8. Ohio does not permit co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.
  9. Utah does not permit anyone cohabiting in a non-marital sexual relationship to adopt. Utah also gives a preference to married couples over any single adult in adoptions or foster care placement.
  10. Wisconsin does not permit second parent or co-parent adoption by unmarried couples.

Getting Help with The Process

Deciding to adopt a child is one of the biggest decisions you will ever make. It is a decision made from a place of extraordinary love and compassion and one that will take you on an incredible journey; a pathway that is hopefully filled with joy and ends with the family you dream of. It can also be an overwhelming experience; dealing with myriad professionals such as lawyers, agencies and physicians can be stressful and it is best to start from a place of knowledge and confidence. Anthony M. Brown is head of the Nontraditional Family and Estates Division of the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates and specializes in same-sex relationship estate planning and co-parent adoption. If you have questions about adoption you can get in touch with him here.

Step Parent Adoption

To read more about Step Parent Adoption, click here.

The Family I Never Thought I’d Have

By Anthony M. Brown – November 21, 2015

What is it about families?   Wars have been fought over them. History has been made because of them. Comedians and therapists have made millions talking about them. But when it all boils down, family makes us who we are, whether standing with them or running from them.

familyMy husband Gary’s blind Aunt Elda died about 5 years ago. We got her cancer diagnosis a year or so  before her death, and it took a while for it to hit home that there was no successful treatment for her ovarian/GI cancer. She had lived outside Gary’s family for many years, in large part due to her husband Chuck. Chuck was perhaps the most prejudiced, bigoted, intolerant man I had ever met. His willingness to make racist or homophobic statements in my husband’s and my presence was almost as strong as his love for Elda. But he physically removed Elda from the family by moving out of state and at one point actually said to her, “you better hope you die first because your family will never be there for you.” Chuck died first.  And we were there for her.

In the perfect ironic twist, Chuck’s mentor and most respected business manager, a man named Ralph Thomas, was also my father’s best friend. He cringed when I would talk about Ralph and his wife in very personal terms as I saw them often before my father died. On Uncle Chuck’s deathbed, everything changed.

Chuck had suffered a series of strokes, the last one leaving him unable to communicate. Gary and I were visiting him in the hospital when I noticed that he was agitated. I knew from my father’s deathbed experience how to shift a person up in the bed by lifting the small blanket placed under the patient and on top of the bed linens. I asked Chuck if he wanted to move up. He blinked his eyes rapidly. Gary and I lifted the blanket, and Chuck, successfully up in the bed. As our eyes met, I could swear I saw him crying and with that, a world of misunderstanding and homophobia flew right out the hospital window.

I don’t know what chuck would have made of the fact that I am a donor dad and have two beautiful little girls with two wonderful women who are their parents or that my husband and I have a son  who has a surrogate mom, but both my family and Gary’s family get it.  And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Gary’s father throughout this time had been enduring a prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease, which, toward the end of his life, left him mentally aware, yet unable to communicate. If he could have, he would have probably yelled. Italians yell, that’s just the way it is. It took me, a southern WASP, years of therapy to realize that Gary’s screaming had more to do with his heritage than anything I may have done. He learned that from his parents. And while they didn’t really communicate, they yelled, A LOT.

Even with the Parkinson’s, Gary’s parents yelled at each other. It used to bother me, but now I get it. While home over one weekend fairly close to may father-in-law’s death, we watched the ultimate tearjerker movie, The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. It tells the tale of a man who reads a handwritten story to a woman in a nursing home everyday until she realizes, through her dementia, that it is their love story. For a few minutes, she remembers, then he is a stranger again.

At the conclusion of the movie, Gary’s mom was sitting in Gary’s lap, both crying, and I was holding my father-in-law’s hand, also crying. Tears everywhere. Gary’s parents hugged each other and, in a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life, Gary’s dad, who had not been able to communicate clearly for months,  looked at his wife of over 60 years and said, “I didn’t know that this was what you’ve been dealing with.   I am sorry.” In that amazing, crystalline moment – we all lost it. Gary’s mom replied that she loved him and that she wanted to take care of him. Gary and I hugged while this exchange occurred knowing that a gift had just been given to everyone in that room.

Enter Michael, Gary’s older brother, who had been watching this whole emotional experience transpire with his then girlfriend, now wife, Xiao from the other room. Xiao is Chinese and had never met a gay person, much less a gay couple, before dating Michael. They had only been dating for a few months when this happened. Michael told me that Xiao had also seen the hug–fest and asked, “How long have Tony and Gary been together?” Michael replied, “almost 20 years.” Xiao said, “Do you think we will be like that in 20 years?” Michael said, “I hope so.”

Regardless what people think about their in-laws, there are lessons to be learned from them, joys and sorrows to be experienced because of them. These are the things that only a family can provide and while many on the less tolerant side of the aisle would either discount or misunderstand my family, no one can change the fact that I am married to a man and that I married into a family that loves and respects both me and my husband. I have children that will learn their values from this amazing family and my children will continue to teach me theirs.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

Anthony M. Brown currently heads the Nontraditional Family and Estates Law division of the law firm of Albert W. Chianese & Associates, PC, specializing in estate planning and second and step-parent adoptions. Anthony is the Board Chariman of Men Having Babies, and is the Executive Director of The Wedding Party.  He can be reached at: Anthony@timeforfamilies.com.

 

About MHB

Men Having Babies, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that was spun off in July 2012 from a program that ran at the NYC LGBT Center since 2005. It started as a peer support network for biological gay fathers and fathers-to-be, offering monthly workshops and an annual seminar. Over time, elaborate online resources were developed, the group’s mailing list expanded to about 2000 couples and singles from around the world, and it teamed up with LGBT family associations to develop similar programs in Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Barcelona, Tel Aviv and Brussels.

 

Our mission includes:

  • The provision of educational and practical information to assist gay prospective parents achieve biological parenting.
  • Promoting the affordability of surrogacy related services for gay men through financial assistance and the encouragement of transparency and customer feedback.
  • Promoting surrogacy practices that minimize the risks and maximize the potential short and long-term benefits to all involved.
  • Raising awareness about the potential benefits and meaningful relationships surrogacy arrangements can bring about.

 

Beyond the seminars and workshops, Men Having Babies runs several programs to promote its educational, advocacy and affordability mission, including:

Assistance in academic studies about gay parenting and surrogacy.

Second parent adoption key to creating security

Growing evidence around secure, same-sex families shows that their children are happy and healthy.  Securing those families through second parent adoption or step parent adoption is key to creating this security.

Second parent adoption is needed and recommended as one tenet of the debate surrounding same-sex marriage has focused on whether same-sex parents provide poorer conditions for raising children compared with different-sex parents. Political and public dialogue ensures that this notion remains pervasive and persuasive, even though the Supreme Court decision this summer ensured marriage equality in the U.S.

And it isn’t just talk: Laws exist that implicitly reflect the rhetoric that somehow same-sex parents are different.

For example, even though same-sex couples make decisions together to have a child, and even if both parents appear on the birth certificate, the nonbiological parent may have limited legal rights over the child.

In Texas, two parents of the same sex are even prohibited from being listed on supplemental birth certificates, only allowing for parents where “one of whom must be a female, named as the mother, and the other of whom must be a male, named as the father.”

Laws and Policies That Undermine Same-Sex Parenting Are Not Based on Science

Although all states offer second parent adoption to same-sex parents in legally recognized unions, only 15 states and the District of Columbia offer second-parent adoption to same-sex parents in cohabiting relationships. This means that in cases where the parents are not married, the nonbiological partner may be denied access to the children.

An underlying assumption about parents in same-sex couples seems to be that same-sex parents are less invested or are unable to follow through on the types of parenting that matter for children.

This type of argument is often rooted in the idea that biological parents who are partnered with each other have an advantage over a parent partnered with someone other than their child’s biological parent, with nonbiological parents less likely to invest or commit to children who are not their “own.”

This is wrong and must stop.

Laws and policies that undermine the rights of same-sex parents are more based on politics than on actual science of how they parent. Same-sex parents who conceive children via assisted reproductive technology, for example, should have the same parental rights as heterosexual parents who conceive via assisted reproductive technology and do not have to jump through the same legal hoop.

Very little research has directly tested whether there are different types of parenting investments by same-sex couples. However, in one study that we conducted, we found no difference in the amount of time parents spend with children between same-sex parents and different-sex mothers. But there is a catch.

Mothers in same-sex relationships, fathers in same-sex relationships, and mothers in heterosexual relationships spent about the same amount of time in child-focused activities, about 100 minutes a day.

Men in heterosexual relationships, however, spent significantly less child-focused time than all three other groups of parents — about 50 minutes per day. That means the only difference that we found tended to favor same-sex couples (and heterosexual mothers).

Importantly, these differences persisted when we controlled for factors that have well-known influences on time spent with children, including parent’s education, the number of children, the age of the children, and parent’s time spent working or commuting.

Here’s the catch to this “no difference” conclusion. When combining estimates across mothers and fathers to look at time investments at the family level, not just by individual parents, children raised in same-sex families would receive an average of 3.5 hours of child-focused time a day, compared with 2.5 hours for children in heterosexual families.

Click here to read the entire article.

 

News.UTexas.edu, by Kate Prickett & Alexa Martin-Storey, November 19, 2015

Same Sex Parenting Cases: Evidence Over Ideology?

Evidence Over Ideology in Same Sex Parenting Cases?

Last Friday, a Utah judge reversed an order in a same sex parenting cases, he had issued just three days earlier that would have removed a young girl from her home because her foster parents are lesbians. Under fierce pressure that even included grumbling by the state’s Republican governor, Judge Scott Johansen issued a temporary reversal after first ruling that it was “not in the best interest of children to be raised by same-sex couples.” The shift is good news for the girl and her foster parents, April Hoagland and Beckie Peirce; for child welfare advocates; and for anyone concerned with fairness, equality, or evidence-based policy.

Evidence should trump ideology when deciding on same sex parenting cases

Yet the matter is far from over. Johansen set a December date for the girl’s fate to be argued at a hearing. And the judge’s revised order left intact a critical foundation of his initial reasoning: what the judge still calls “a concern that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home.”

Hoagland and Peirce told a news station they believe the judge relied on his religious beliefs to make his decision, something that would be plainly unconstitutional. Does the judge have any sound reason to give straight couples preference over same-sex ones?

Asked in court to cite any of the “myriad” studies he reportedly referenced in ruling against the same-sex couple, Johansen declined. And for good reason: There are none. A research team I direct, based at Columbia Law School, conducted one of the most exhaustive analyses of peer-reviewed studies on same-sex parenting published over the last 30 years. Our initiative, the What We Know Project, started with the question, “What does the scholarly research say about the well being of children with gay or lesbian parents?” Our results, which are constantly updated as new research emerges, are posted at our site, with links to the studies or their abstracts.

What did we find? Currently, there are 77 scholarly articles that address this question. Of those, 73—the vast majority—found that children raised in same-sex parenting homes fare just as well as their peers. Could the four outliers be the “myriad” studies Johansen is referencing? Not if he’s done an ounce of homework and is being remotely honest about what the research says. For starters, basing a ruling that breaks a family apart on four studies that are contradicted by 73 others is questionable on its face. But equally important, these four studies do not actually prove what their authors claim they do, and anyone who looks at them closely can see that.

Reviewing the studies clarifies that they all suffer from the same fundamental flaw: While the authors tout the importance of large, random samples and imply that that’s what they’re using, they in fact rely on samples that are anything but. Here’s how this works: They start with very large samples that come from a reliable dataset like the census. In some cases the original sample is as large as several million people. Out of this much ballyhooed sample size, researchers struggle to identify families in which a stable, same-sex couple raised children from infancy—the relevant standard, since what’s usually being debated, as in the Utah case, is whether such a couple ought to be allowed to parent. So researchers create their own definitions for what constitutes an “LGB” family, and they are uniformly very loose. In some cases they just ask children if a parent ever had a same-sex relationship and throw the “yes” kids into a category called “LGBT families”—even though they are a world apart from a situation in which children are raised by a stable, same-sex couple. This is not to say one type of family is superior to another, just that we must compare apples to apples to yield any useful conclusions about same-sex parenting. (Many of the gay-supportive studies also use small samples, but their authors don’t suggest otherwise, and—most important—they are actually studying children raised by same-sex parents.)

Click here to read the entire article.

by Nathaniel Frank, Slate.com