The laws regarding same-sex marriage and parents have changed rapidly over the last decade. Our state has gone from offering very few rights to same-sex couples to embracing nearly full equality. This transition has left a few holes in our legal system, however. Many couples have been together since before their marriage was legally recognized in Indiana. Some couples still need to close that legal gap, especially when it comes to recognizing two parents. A second parent adoption can help.
What is a second parent adoption?
In some situations, a child has only one recognized parent at birth. This could be due to a single person using fertility assistance or surrogacy, one parent being unknown or unnamed. In other situations, one parent dies after the child is born.
In such cases, the single parent may go on to meet a new partner who wants to adopt the child as their own. This process is called a stepparent adoption or a second parent adoption. It can give the child further security and support, both financially and emotionally.
When do you NOT need a second parent adoption?
You no longer need to complete a second parent adoption in Indiana if you were married when your child was born, and both of your names were put on the birth certificate. Same-sex couples could not always do this. In the court case Box v. Henderson, the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that two married women should be allowed to both be listed on their child’s birth certificate, rather than the non-biological parent having to go through a second parent adoption. The U.S. Supreme Court left the decision in place by denying cert in December 2020. The decision follows the Supreme Court’s holding in a prior case, Pavan v. Smith, 137 S. Ct. 2017 (2017).
Closing the gap for same-sex parents
Adoption can still help certain couples who had their child before the law’s change and did not have both parents on the birth certificate. It can also help couples who are in a typical stepparent adoption situation. One person may come into the relationship with a child, and the other person would like to adopt that child. If the child already has a legally recognized second parent, that person’s parental rights must be terminated before an adoption can take place.
Although the process does require time and effort, the rewards are well worth it. You may already have the same parental relationship as any other family, for most purposes. But formalizing your role as a parent allows you to make important decisions for your child, ensures your custody rights in the case of death or divorce and secures your child’s inheritance rights.