Representing LGBT Clients in Adoption and ART Matters

Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Adoption Services - Second Parent and LGBT Parents


Helping your gay or lesbian client reach their goal to be a parent through adoption is a very enriching and rewarding experience.  Below are a few tips to guide you in representing gay and lesbian clients. 

Know the law.  When a gay or lesbian client comes in for a consult, be sure you know the adoption lawsin your state and local jurisdiction. While a state may not specifically allow or preclude a second parent adoption[1], some jurisdictions will allow them to proceed as joint or step-parent adoptions and some counties may be more favorable than others when it comes to granting adoptions by same-sex couples. 

Identify the type of adoption.  There are numerous ways same-sex couples may want to create their family through adoption.  At the consult, be sure you identify the type of adoption being sought.  Your client may (a) want to adopt a child domestically or internationally now so her/his partner can later adopt the child; (b) be a birth or adoptive parent who wants her/his partner to adopt his/her child; or (c) your client’s partner may already have a birth or adopted child and your client wants to adopt their partners’ child. 

Establish who you represent.  Gay and lesbian clients often seek out legal advice as a couple.  The potential for conflict exists with second parent adoptions because the legal parent is giving up his/her exclusive constitutional right to parent his/her child and the adopting parent is taking on the legal responsibility of parenting and supporting the child even after a dissolution.  Be clear in your retainer agreement about conflicts, waivers and who is the client. 

Know the legal impactfor your client and be prepared to discuss what rights he/she is giving up or gaining by adopting the child.[2]  This includes being familiar with the tax benefits and consequences of adoption.  While you need not be an expert on tax law, you should be aware of the State and Federal tax benefits to the adopting parent and advise your client to seek tax advice regarding dependents, filing status and exemptions.

Network with experienced attorneys.  Representing gay and lesbian adoption clients requires a lot of attention to details, so it is helpful to initially reach out to others with legal experience in this area to ask questions and seek assistance with the adoption process.


[1]          “Second parent adoption” is a general term used when a gay or lesbian parent adopts his/her partner’s child, however, some States may use other terms with which you should be familiar.

[2]          Gay and lesbian clients often ask if their adoption will be recognized in other states.  While the answer should be “yes” due to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution for final judgments, it is unclear whether every state will recognize two legal parents of the same sex.  Thus, it would be prudent to advise your client to seek legal advice about his/her parental rights in any state to which they intend to relocate. 


“I believe in working with each of my clients—in support of their family dynamic—to make the dreams of parenthood a reality. Whether you are single or married; or gay; a step-parent, a surrogate or intended parent or a child of adoption, it is my mission to serve as your advocate. With a dedication to the ethical and sensitive nature of each situation, I will help you understand the laws within Maryland or Washington, DC for adoption or surrogacy, and pledge to be your partner throughout the journey.” - Jennifer Fairfax