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What is Gay Adoption and How Does it Work?

If you’re an LGBT individual who wants children, whether you’re in a relationship or not, you may wonder what options are available to you. Fortunately, if you’re considering a same-sex adoption as a way to add to your family, know that this is more a possibility for you today than it ever has been.

As perceptions of family change and expand over time, gay and lesbian adoption has become increasingly common. Many of the barriers that once existed for same-sex couples adopting in the U.S. no longer do, which means that you have the same options for adopting that any heterosexual couple does. People have begun to realize that it doesn’t matter what a family looks like — just as long as they can provide love and support forever to a child they welcome into their lives through adoption. So, if you are hoping to grow your family as a same-sex couple, then adoption is certainly an option for you.

So, what is gay adoption? A same-sex adoption is just what it sounds like: any kind of adoption completed when the prospective parents involved are LGBT individuals. Whether you’re looking to complete a gay adoption, a lesbian adoption, a transgender adoption or any other adoption on the LGBT spectrum, you will have options available to you.

It’s important to recognize that gay couples adopting doesn’t always refer to a private domestic infant adoption. There are many ways an LGBT adoption can occur, whether it involves a biologically related or unrelated child, or even a child who is already a part of your life emotionally but not legally. Before you pursue an adoption as a same-sex couple, it’s important to recognize exactly which legal process best fits your situation:

Joint Same-Sex Adoption of an Infant or Child

When most people think about adoption for LGBT families, they think about a private domestic infant adoption. This kind of gay adoption involves a couple finding a prospective birth mother who will place her baby for adoption with them, as well as creating an open adoption relationship with her as her child grows up.

While laws in the past prevented married or unmarried same-sex couples from completing this kind of adoption together, recent court rulings on marriage equality and LGBT adoption now protect the right for all married same-sex couples to adopt together. This not only applies to private adoption but also to public foster care adoption, if you’re interested in adopting a child from the foster care system. In either process, there will be no additional legal requirements because you’re a same-sex couple adopting; you’ll have the same requirements as any other heterosexual couple.

Domestic vs. International Adoption

Another thing to consider when you’re adopting an infant or child who is not related to you is where you choose to adopt them from. Generally speaking, the process will be much easier if you choose to adopt a child from the United States, thanks to the laws protecting your right to do so. If you choose to adopt a child from another country, you may not be able to adopt that child jointly because not all other nations are as progressive when it comes to LGBT adoption rights. If you want to adopt internationally, one of you will likely need to adopt the child on your own and then complete a second-parent or stepparent adoption when you arrive back in the United States.

Second-Parent or Stepparent Same-Sex Adoption

Before same-sex marriage was declared legal in all of the United States, it wasn’t uncommon for gay people adopting to complete an individual adoption first, and then grant their partner legal rights to the child through a second-parent or, if married, a stepparent adoption. If your partner adopted a child on their own, either while you were in a relationship or before you met them, and you want to adopt that child yourself, this is the legal process you will need to complete. In addition, if one of you is related to a child conceived via assisted reproductive technology and you cannot both be placed on the birth certificate, you’ll need to complete a stepparent or second-parent adoption to become a legal parent of that baby.

The key difference between a second-parent and stepparent LGBT adoption is whether or not the adoptive parents involved are married. Second-parent adoption laws vary by state; for example, some courts will not allow same-sex couples to complete this kind of adoption now that they can legally get married and complete a stepparent gay adoption instead. That’s why it’s important that you consult closely with an attorney if you want to adopt a child that your partner first adopted on their own.

Fortunately, stepparent and second-parent adoption requirements are much more relaxed than a joint adoption. Depending on your state laws, there may be requirements for the amount of time you’ve been married, and you’ll likely need to complete a short background check process. Again, work with an attorney to determine what your individual legal process may look like.

What to Consider Before Pursuing a Gay Adoption

For gay couples, adopting a child poses certain challenges that you should be aware of before you begin. A thorough understanding of adoption law and the adoption process is the first step to pursuing your dream of becoming a family. In addition, you’ll need to consider the unique challenges that you may face as you wait for an adoption opportunity and raise your adopted child. The best way to prepare yourself for a same-sex couple adoption is by choosing a non-discriminatory adoption professional to help you understand the entire adoption process and who will assist you every step of the way.

Remember, adoption can be a complicated process for all prospective adoptive parents, no matter their sexual orientation. In the end, however, it’s all worth it when you finally are the parent you’ve always dreamed of being.