Second Parent Adoption

A second parent adoption is when one partner wishes to legally adopt the other partner’s child so they share equal legal parental rights. This typically occurs when the couple is unmarried or if they’re a same-sex couple and wish to ensure their parental rights are protected.

An attorney is always needed to complete a second-parent adoption in Virginia, Maryland or Washington, D.C.   Jennifer and Catelyn are proud to help couples to complete their families through second-parent adoptions, and have many years of experience doing so.

If you’re ready to legally confirm your status as a family, contact us now.

To learn more about second-parent adoption in DC, MD and VA, read the following guide for more information:

Who Might Consider Adopting a Partner’s Child?

Second parent adoptions are commonly completed by same-sex couples who are in a committed relationship and who are raising a child together, but may not be legally married. For example, if one person previously adopted a child individually or has a biological child from a previous relationship, their partner may choose to complete a second parent adoption so that they can have equal legal rights to their child.

With the legalization of same-sex marriage, married same-sex couples can also choose to adopt jointly or to complete a stepparent adoption. There are many ways for you to become a family. Or, if your family is already complete but lacks legal formalization of the bonds you share, we can help.

To learn more about which type of adoption is appropriate in your situation, contact us now. We can advise you about how to best complete your family.

The Process of Second Parent Adoptions in the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland

The District of Columbia allows second parent adoptions to take place in the District if a child is (was) born in the District on or after July 1, 2009. Non-resident couples may obtain an adoption in the District or a Judgment of Parentage based solely on the birth of the child in the District of Columbia. This means that lesbian couples who gave birth to a child in the District of Columbia after July 1, 2009 will be able to obtain a second-parent adoption in D.C., even if they reside outside of the District. Once granted, the Commonwealth of Virginia, North Carolina and other States, as well as the federal government, should recognize the adoption for all purposes. 

The first second parent adoption in Maryland was granted in late 1996, and the first second parent adoption in the District of Columbia was granted in 1995. Today, second parent adoption in either jurisdiction is routinely granted as long as the parents have met the adoption criteria required by the local court.

Step-parent adoptions by same-sex married couples became legal in 2014 in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Adoption for unmarried couples became available on July 1, 2021.  The statute reads that in cases in which the spouse of a birth parent or parent by adoption or a person with a legitimate interest who is not the birth parent of a child wishes to adopt the child, the birth parent or parent by adoption and such parent's spouse or other person with a legitimate interest may file a petition for adoption in the circuit court of the county or city where the birth parent or parent by adoption and such parent's spouse or other person with a legitimate interest reside or the county or city where the child resides.  Despite being slower to grant these equal adoption rights to same-sex couples than other states, step-parent and second parent adoption in Virginia is now recognized for all families.

Jennifer has handled hundreds of second parent adoptions during her career in all three jurisdictions, and she can help you complete your family through second-parent adoption, as well.

Second Parent Adoptions in LGBT Families and ART Cases

Second parent adoptions often occur when one lesbian partner bears the child with the use of donor sperm, or where a male couple uses a gestational carrier to carry their child and one is the biological father. Jennifer has worked with couples using known sperm donors, gestational carriers, egg donors and in situations where one lesbian partner is the biological mother and the other is the birth mother. Her extensive experience in family-building makes her the top choice for the LGBT community in securing parental rights through adoption or parentage actions. 

Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia will name a married lesbian couple as the parents of a child born to them when the birth mother identifies her spouse at the hospital as the child's other mother. In Maryland and the District of Columbia, marriage is not required to take advantage of this law, so long as the couple signs parentage paperwork at the hospital.

If you are an LGBTQ, contact us  about the process for gay and lesbian second parent adoption in Maryland and the District of Columbia and step-parent adoption for LGBTQ parents in Virginia. It is still recommended to all parents in same-sex or same-gender relationships to secure their parental rights through an adoption, as a birth certificate is a "presumption of parentage" but the adoption is a judicial determination given full faith and credit across the country.

How Family Formation Law Offices Can Help You Complete Your Second-Parent Adoption

Jennifer has been seen on ABC News discussing the marriage recognition in Maryland and marriage in the District of Columbia, specifically regarding the impact on LGBTQ clients considering becoming parents. Client feedback demonstrates that Jennifer is one of the top adoption attorneys for the LGBTQ community. Read client comments on Jennifer’s Avvo profile.

Uncontested second parent adoptions are handled on a capped fee basis, and Jennifer is the most competitively-priced attorney with extensive experience handling second parent adoptions in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.

In the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland, LGBTQ individuals — both single individuals and couples — are also eligible to adopt through an agency, foster care or private placement adoption although religious based agencies in Virginia can refuse to work with you or your family. Contact us now to learn more about all of your family-building options so you can choose the path that’s best for your family.

Does a surrogate have to consent to an adoption?

If you use a Traditional Surrogate, she will have to consent to any adoption by a non-biological parent of the child.  This may be a step-parent or second parent adoption.  If you use a gestational surrogate which is recommended since it provides greater legal protections for all the parties, you can often obtain a birth order declaring your parentage prior to the baby's birth avoiding the need for an adoption.

Can Same Sex Clients Adopt?

Yes.  In Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia gay and lesbian parents can adopt as single parents and as married parents.  Some other states will not grant same sex adoptions so talk to your attorney before you get started to ensure your adoption plan can be completed.  Maryland and D.C. allow both second parent and step parent adoptions for same-sex partners and Virginia will allow for a step-parent adoption (thus you must be married in Virginia to adopt your partner/spouse's child) 

“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