As recently reported by the Washington Post (an article in which I provided background information for), many lesbians from Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and other states that prohibit second parent adoption are coming into the District of Columbia to give birth so that they can complete their adoptions and obtain the legal recognition as parents to their children in their home states.
I have been handling second parent adoptions since the early to mid-1990’s when the first ones were being granted in both D.C. and then Maryland. It is true that about half of the states, including Maryland, allow these adoptions by a second, same-sex parent who otherwise would not be considered a legal parent. This is not true in states like Virginia where children can be adopted by an individual or a married couple but not a gay couple. The District is a rarity in that it permits second-parent adoptions based on the child being born in the District of Columbia. Many of my clients begin working with me early in the pregnancy to come up with plans for their delivery at a local hospital as well to sign the necessary paperwork. We always advise clients on a back-up plan in case delivery does not occur in D.C. that includes estate planning options and other protections for their family.
When Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) sponsored this bill, it was clearly going to be a benefit to lesbian families in non-recognition states. It also changed the adoption landscape as D.C. had previously been one of the jurisdictions where non-residents could not finalize an adoption. So not only did this new law benefit same-sex parents, but it has benefited countless other adoptive families who were (and are!) able to utilize the laws of the District of Columbia to complete their adoptions so long as the baby was born in the District of Columbia.
It is important to know that in D.C. the adoption cannot be granted until the child has been in the home for six (6) months, however, we prepare documents in advance of the birth. We provide clients with a concise list of things we need and what they need to do to ensure things move smoothly such as which background checks are required. We then file as soon after the birth as we can and usually have a 10 minute status hearing a few months after filing where the family appears before the court and then the family does not have to return again as we handle the rest of the process and send them the final decree. There are many options we can go over with clients about timing of hearings and having hearings before they leave D.C. after the birth.
The 2013 law is retroactive to July 2009 and we have completed many adoptions where children were born between July 2009 and July 2013 when the law was passed. Our clients have been from North Carolina, Texas, Ohio and Virginia. We anticipate clients from many other states in the coming year including a couple that is from Michigan. So if you are in a non-recognition state, are expecting a child and cannot complete a second parent adoption where you live, contact Jennifer today to see what options are available for you. We have a summary of this law and a copy of it on the website at www.jenniferfairfax.com second parent adoption page.