Across the United States, same-sex partners are able to lawfully wed and enjoy the protections afforded to them by marriage.  More than ever before, same-sex couples are growing their families through the use of assistive reproductive technology, including artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy to name a few methods.

In New Jersey, when married same-sex couples have children, both parents may be listed on the birth certificate, regardless of which parent gave birth.  However, it is important to understand that a birth certificate is not a parentage order; it is merely a record of the birth of a child.  Accordingly, parental rights are not ensured by the appearance of the parent’s name on a birth certificate.  Adoption attorneys and LGBT equality advocates recommend that same-sex couples file for second parent adoption to legally secure parental rights for the non-gestational or non-biological parent.  A Final Judgment of Adoption ensures that both parents possess equal rights and responsibilities to the children, and protects the children by legally solidifying each family member’s relation to one another.

While some people feel understandably conflicted about having to adopt their own children, going forward with a second parent adoption brings completion to a formality recommended for those who expand their families by the use of assistive reproductive technology.  It is a means of ensuring that your family integrity will be preserved if you should travel or move out of state to a jurisdiction hostile to same-sex families.

Plaintiffs in a second parent adoption face a limited inquiry into their criminal background, including verification that their name does not appear on child abuse or domestic violence offender registries. The home study usually required in an adoption proceeding may be waived in second parent adoptions where the other parent consents to the adoption.  An experienced adoption attorney can help you navigate the exact requirements of your particular case.

Keep in mind that while the nation has made great strides to protect same-sex couples and honor their relationships, marriage equality does not provide sufficient protection of the legal rights of same-sex parents and their children.  A second parent adoption ensures the parental rights of the non-biological parent and prevents the risk of the legal status of the family questioned or even denied.  No matter which path you take to expand your family, it is important to have good legal counsel to ensure both parents’ rights are equally protected.  The Law Offices of Lynda L. Hinkle, LLC can help.  Give us a call today at 856-227-7888 for a free consultation with an experienced adoption attorney who can give your unique circumstances a personalized approach to achieving equality.