As of October 10, 2014, in the state of North Carolina, and in June of 2015 nationwide, the ban on gay marriages was lifted, and LGBT individuals were granted the same marriage rights as other individuals across the nation. With this change, many other issues are coming into light, including divorce among LGBT couples, and the question of adoption by LGBT couples in the state. The recent rulings regarding marriage have made adoption by same-sex couples possible, though the help of a North Carolina LGBT adoption lawyer would be recommended to ensure that you are not held back by a system which still holds some vestiges of discrimination.
As LGBT adoption lawyers will tell you, every LGBT adoption is unique and will vary depending upon the circumstances of the parents and child. The information seen here is then not intended to be legal advice from an LGBT adoption attorney, but a general guideline. For specific information relating to your situation, speak to a qualified LGBT adoption lawyer today to get advice for your exact situation.
How Do LGBT Couples Adopt? Insights from LGBT Adoption Lawyers in North Carolina
Before the ruling on marriage equality, it was only possible for LGBT individuals to adopt as individuals. However, now that same-sex marriage has been recognized legally, same-sex couples have the ability to adopt a child together as a married couple, subject to the same rules and requirements as any married couple adopting a child. In addition, if one partner in an LGBT couple has adopted a child already, the other spouse may adopt that child as well via step-parent adoption procedures. Both of these processes are best fostered by an experienced LGBT adoption lawyer.
North Carolina, however, does not permit “second parent” adoptions. This is an adoption in which an unmarried couple can adopt a child and enjoy parental rights. Therefore, if you are an LGBT couple considering adopting a child, LGBT adoption attorneys always recommend that the same-sex couple gets married before you begin pursuing adoption.
Those who are seeking a second parent adoption, in particular, may be able to finish this process in another state, but be sure to consult an LGBT adoption lawyer in order to understand exactly what this adoption will mean for you, your spouse, and your child under North Carolina state law.
How Long Do I Have to Be Married Before Pursuing a Step-Parent Adoption?
Any couple, including LGBT couples, need to be married for at least six months before they are able to petition for a step-parent adoption. For LGBT couples who have been in long-term relationships, even living together, before marriage was legal, this period does not count. After six months from that date you get married, your partner will be able to adopt your child as a step-parent. An LGBT adoption attorney can help you to understand and complete this process.
If you have been married in another state six months or more ago, such as a state that recognized LGBT marriage before North Carolina, then you are eligible to petition for step-parent adoption. The state of North Carolina will recognize a marriage legally performed in another state, even if it was performed before same-sex marriage was legal in North Carolina.
What Documents Will My North Carolina LGBT Adoption Need to Lawyer File?
In order to complete an LGBT adoption, the state of North Carolina requires that LGBT adoption lawyers file the following documents, either as originals or certified copies:
- Certificate of Marriage
- Divorce Decrees for any previous marriages of both parents
- The child’s birth certificate
- Any court orders relating to custody or child support
- Any court order relating to waiving of parental rights by the other biological parent
- 10-year state and federal criminal records for the petitioning spouse
- Child Abuse Registry Clearance for any state in which the petitioning spouse lived in the last five years
Who Needs to Consent to an LGBT Step-Parent Adoption?
As LGBT adoption attorneys, we are often asked who needs to consent to adoption by an LGBT couple. First of all, the parent who has physical and legal custody of the child needs to consent. If the child is older than 12, then the child needs to consent to the adoption as well, and state that consent in writing. An LGBT adoption lawyer can assist you in completing this paperwork.
What if One Biological Parent is a Sperm or Egg Donor?
In most cases involving an egg or sperm donor, the donor waives their parental rights before conception when they submit their egg or sperm for use. If you have a copy of this document, then a clerk should honor it. However, if no such document exists, then you and your LGBT adoption lawyer in North Carolina will need to get written consent since the donor will be a legal parent under state law.
It is important to remember that in the case of adoption from a donor, also known as a gamete adoption, only the biological parent’s name will appear on the birth certificate. In order for the non-biological parent to appear on the birth certificate, an adoption is necessary – another reason to consult with an LGBT adoption lawyer.
Parental consent can be a complex and sometimes stressful matter, even regarding gamete donation, because asking someone to waive all parental rights is a difficult proposition. Your LGBT adoption attorneys in North Carolina will be able to help you complete all necessary documentation and take all legal steps to make the adoption possible.
What Happens After Adoption is Filed by an LGBT Adoption Lawyer in North Carolina?
Once the adoption petition has been filed, then the court will request a report be filed, either by the agency that prepared the child’s pre-placement assessment or by social services. This report is always required with a single exception: the case where the parent and step-parent have been married for at least two years. If this is the case, this report is not necessary.
In all other cases, the court will require two post-placement visits with a follow-up report to the court, and a 10-year federal and state criminal background check, in addition to clearance from the child abuse registry. Your North Carolina LGBT adoption attorney can help you obtain all of these records and have them ready for the court.
Social Services has a history of providing post-placement services for step-parent adoptions at a low cost. In addition, many licensed adoption agencies in North Carolina also conduct these visits and complete the required reports. These assessments, while they may seem somewhat needless if you, your partner, and your child have been enjoying a good relationship for some time, are not something to stress about. The pre-placement home study for adoption is rather extensive, but the post-placement assessment is merely designed to make sure that the child is doing well with their adoptive family.
When Will Our North Carolina LGBT Adoption be Final?
In the state of North Carolina, the court may schedule a hearing on the adoption petition. The date will be set at least 90 days after the petition is filed and the petition will be heard by the court within six months of filing unless an extension is ordered. This is a long process, but it is worth it to provide a child with a good home.
If your petition to adopt is unopposed, then you will not need to attend a hearing. If the hearing is necessary, then the court will determine whether the requested LGBT adoption is in the child’s best interest. Your LGBT adoption lawyer will assist you in preparing for this hearing if one is necessary.
Do I Have to Have an LGBT Adoption Attorney in North Carolina to Complete a Same-Sex Adoption?
The laws which govern LGBT adoption are complex and very strict in their application. While it is certainly possible to attempt an adoption on your own, consulting with an experienced LGBT adoption lawyer is highly recommended. LGBT adoption lawyers and attorneys will help to ensure your adoption goes as smoothly as possible. He or she will answer all your questions about the adoption process and the laws relating to it, assess the risks in your case, discuss the best option available to you, and develop a strong, legally secure adoption plan.
Consult with a North Carolina LGBT Adoption Lawyer Today
If you are considering adopting a child as a same-sex couple, or are in a same-sex marriage and wish to pursue a step-parent adoption, we urge you to work with an LGBT adoption lawyer in North Carolina. The decision to raise a child is never one that is made lightly, so it is vital that the adoption process is done correctly and effectively. The process can be long and stressful, but with the assistance of LGBT adoption attorneys, it can proceed very smoothly, as your attorney will handle all the heavy lifting, so that you can focus on the more important task of preparing to be a great parent.