How marriage rights influenced an easier adoption process in Florida.
On January 6, 2015, the right for same sex couples to marry took effect statewide in Florida. Since then, thousands of couples have been celebrating their chance to take the ultimate step of utter love and commitment: marriage. Finally, the time has come for same sex couples in Florida to declare their official love by “taking the plunge”, committing to their partner by law and enjoying all of the benefits heterosexual marriages have been enjoying for centuries (as well as the protection the law provides in case of a divorce). However, how far has the State of Florida come when it comes to recognizing the rights of same-sex couples in addition to legalizing same sex marriage? Does this mean same sex couples are now free to adopt a child together?
Adoption Reform in Florida
Florida has come a long way when it comes to the gay movement and recognizing the rights of gay people. Although many battles have been won for the gay community, there are still a few dragons left to be put down which fiercely oppose the rights of gay couples, in particular the adoption of a child.
In 2015, the Florida Legislature went through a complete adoption reform. A version of the legislation that repeals the 1977 ban on homosexual adoption, passed the Florida House of Representatives. In April, the Florida Senate passed the bill on a 27-11 vote. Governor Rick Scott stated he will review the bill, which is to be effective by July 1, 2015, giving the Governor until then to either sign or veto the legislation. Thus, the future of children waiting to be adopted by same sex couples lies in the hands of Governor Scott, at least for now.
How Have Same Sex Couples Been Able to Adopt a Child in Florida?
In recent years, a process known as second-parent adoption has been developed in gay family law practices throughout Florida. “Second-parent” refers to the non-biological parent of a child being raised together with the child’s biological parent. Frequently perceived as the most effective way to seal a non-biological parent’s rights, the process required a substantial share of “red tape” and jumping through legal hoops, even for those couples who had been raising children together for years. The process tended to be costly and lengthy for the adoptive parent, requiring tons of paperwork, letters of recommendation and a home study (paid by the adoptive parent) in which an agent visited the parent’s home to basically investigate the petitioner’s suitability as a parent. Fingerprinting and background checks were also mandatory.
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Florida, family lawyers believe second-parent adoption may become obsolete in the gay community. However, because same-sex marriages are not recognized in many states or countries, it is recommended that gay Florida couples continue to perceive adoption as the safest route for their children to have two legal parents.
Has Same Sex Adoption Changed Since the Legalization of Same Sex Marriage in Florida?
Yes. Thankfully, there are now ways to go around the costly and lengthy “second-parent” adoption process by ways of the “step-parent” adoption process, which is commonly used by heterosexual couples.
Already, multiple same-sex couples in Florida have successfully achieved step-parent adoptions, which do not require background checks, fingerprints or home studies. Usually step-parent adoptions are much less expensive than second-parent adoptions, are less intrusive and less time consuming, allowing the process to be completed in a shorter time than second-parent adoption.
Legally wed gay couples who want to adopt children in foster care custody will have an even easier time adopting. A week after gay marriage was legalized, Florida’s Department of Children and Families sent out a memo instructing community adoption agencies that married same-sex couples are now allowed to adopt children jointly, instead of having one partner adopt the child and the other partner go through a second-parent adoption process.
If you are ready to take the next step in your marriage and adopt a child, contact Lauriston Law Firm for all your Family Law questions.