Earlier this year, same-sex couples in Florida were given the right to become legally married. The granting of this right to marry has affected many other rights same-sex couples in Florida have struggled with, including the right to adopt.
Since Florida did not recognize the marriage of same-sex couples, they were made to petition for a second-parent adoption, a more complex process requiring more time and more money spent on the case than a stepparent adoption.
With Florida’s ruling in Brenner v Scott, prior to January 6, 2015, Florida did not recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple, even if the couple had been legally married in another state. Because of this, same-sex couples could not pursue a stepparent adoption. A stepparent adoption allows a married couple to petition a family law court, so that one spouse may adopt the child of the other spouse. This ultimately gives the stepparent the same rights and responsibilities of a biological or legal parent. On June 26, 2015, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled permanently in Obergefell et Al v Hodges that the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from denying same-sex couples the right to marry.
With the change in law giving same-sex couples the right to marry, the right to a stepparent adoption is also given. This saves the couple time and money, and allows for a family to become complete in the eyes of the law.
Without stepparent or second-parent adoption, if the biological parent died or if the couple were to divorce, the non-biological parent would immediately lose all rights to the child. Regardless of how much of the child’s life was spent living with him or her, the step-parent would have no legal authority over who would then care for the child, nor over the child’s medical care, education, home location. Same-sex relationships with extended family can be emotionally charged and the biological family was the only one recognized by the courts.
If you have questions regarding a stepparent adoption, please contact the attorneys at Fletcher and Phillips at 904-353-7733.