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Woman denied visitation rights in same-sex adoption

Florida individuals in same-sex relationships may be interested in the results of a court case in another state in which an adoptive same-sex parent was denied visitation rights. The high court in Alabama overturned a lower court ruling that had granted those rights to the woman.

The two women had been together for 16 years, and the biological mother had one child in 2002 followed by twins in 2004. The couple lived in Alabama, but they were advised that courts in Georgia might be more amenable to same-sex adoption. They rented a house in the Atlanta area where the adoption was approved in 2007.

After the couple split up, the biological mother subsequently argued against the validity of the adoption because she said the couple only rented the house to establish residency in the area and that they spent just two nights there. The Alabama court said that the adoption was invalid because parental rights must be terminated before a non-spouse can be allowed to adopt a child in Georgia. A single judge dissented, saying that it set a precedent that might result in other adoptions in Alabama being found invalid. The adoptive mother is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Despite the nationwide legality of same-sex marriage, parents in same-sex relationships who had their children prior to the legalization might find themselves in similar circumstances. There may not be uniformity yet in how courts interpret laws from state to state. Both married and unmarried same-sex couples who wish to become parents may want to work with an attorney to discuss how they might proceed. While the law against same-sex adoptions in Florida has been overturned, this case demonstrates how courts might inconsistently interpret the law. To achieve national protection for same-sex parents' adoption rights, a Supreme Court ruling may be necessary.

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