United States Supreme Court Decides Second Parent Adoption Case

Dustin FreundArizona Adoption News, Relative or Stepparent Adoption

The United States Supreme Court held in V.L. v. E.L., et al that a state court’s adoption decision had to be recognized by every other state, despite differences in state laws.

A lesbian couple, V.L. and E.L., were in a relationship from 1995 until 2011. During this time, the couple used assisted reproductive technology to have children. E.L. gave birth to three children, which V.L. later adopted in a second parent adoption in Georgia.

Georgia law allows “second parent adoption,” which allows an individual, who is not married to the birth parent or adoptive parent, to adopt a child without having to terminate the birth parent’s or adoptive parent’s rights. Unlike in step-parent adoptions, two people do not have to be married for a second parent adoption. After a second parent adoption, both parents share the legal relationship of parent-child with the adopted child.

In the case, V.L. and E.L.’s relationship ended while they were living in Alabama, a state, like Arizona, that does not recognize second parent adoptions. E.L. would not allow V.L. any visitation. After the second parent adoption, V.L. was a legal parent of all three children. V.L. petitioned the Alabama court to enforce visitation based on her parentage of the children, but was denied because Alabama law does not allow second parent adoptions.

The United States Supreme Court concisely stated that the Constitution’s Full, Faith, and Credit Clause requires every state to recognize valid judgments from another state, even if the states differ in their laws. In that case, the second parent adoption was a valid adoption order under Georgia law. So, even though Alabama does not allow second parent adoptions, Alabama courts still had to look at V.L. as a parent and enter orders relating to parenting time and legal-decision making.

In Arizona, only married couples or single individuals may adopt. If somebody wanted to adopt another person’s child without being married to that child’s parent, the parent’s rights have to be terminated for the other person to adopt. However, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, Arizona courts must recognize a second parent adoption order from another state’s court if the adoption was valid and the state had the authority to enter the order.

If you have any questions about second parent adoptions, stepparent adoptions, same-sex couple adoptions, or adoptions in general, please give us a call or contact us via email.

We would be happy to discuss Arizona law with you and the effects of the United States Supreme Court’s decision.