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Nonprofit in Florida Offers Grants for Adoption Costs

The Tampa Bay Times recently ran a story about the Gift of Adoption Fund.  Gift of Adoption Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization with a chapter in Florida that helps prospective adoptive parents in need defray some of the costs of adoption.

Adoption Grants | Gift of Adoption Fund

You can find portions of the Tampa Bay Times story below.

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Can 2 Men or 2 Women Appear on a Florida Birth Certificate?

Florida has not had the best history when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples.  For the longest time, the state had a law on the books that gay men and women were forbidden from adopting a child.  Florida not only enacted a so-called Defense of Marriage Act statute but enshrined its opposition to same-sex marriage in the state’s constitution.  Further, even once Florida courts ruled that the state must recognize marriage between people of the same sex, it was unclear whether the state would permit same-sex divorce.

Fortunately, the state has come a long way.  The “gay adoption ban” is no longer on the books.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a ban on the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples is unconstitutional, as is a refusal of one state to recognize a same-sex marriage solemnized in another state.  And it has become clear that circuit courts in Tampa Bay and around the state must give same-sex spouses the opportunity to dissolve their marriage.

So, at this point, can two parents of the same sex appear on a Florida birth certificate?

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US Supreme Court: Second Parent Adoptions Protected by Full Faith and Credit

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state must give full faith and credit to a judgment granting a second parent adoption issued by a court of competent jurisdiction of another state.

A second parent adoption is similar to a stepparent adoption, where one spouse adopts the other spouse’s child, except that the petitioner in a second parent adoption is not married to the child’s legal parent.  Second parent adoptions were most closely associated with same-sex partners as, until recently, same-sex marriages were not permitted or recognized in Florida and around the country.

Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svgSecond parent adoption was the only method available (where it was permitted) for many LGBT individuals to gain legal recognition as a second parent to a child.

In the case, V.L. v. E.L., 577 U.S. ___ (2016), two women, E.L. and V.L.  were in a relationship from 1995 until 2011.  About seven years into the relationship, E.L. became pregnant via assisted reproductive technology and gave birth to a child (and a couple of years later, to twins).  The women raised the children as co-parents.

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Anti-Gay Language Stripped From Florida Adoption Laws

Up until recently, chapter 63 of the Florida Statutes, which contains the state’s adoption laws, was explicitly anti-gay.  Chapter 63 and adoption case law stated that whether prospective parents could adopt a child should be based on the best interests of the child, with one exception.

LGBT flag

That exception was laid out in Florida Statutes section 63.042(3) (2014), which provided that “No person eligible to adopt under this statute may adopt if that person is a homosexual.”

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Client Review: Adult Adoption in Florida

Floridians know about child adoption, but many do not realize that adults may be adopted as well.  Whether you have an adult step child, adult foster child, adult relative, or other person, Florida courts generally will grant adult adoptions so long the adoptee is younger than the prospective adoptive parent.  Florida courts have even granted adult adoptions that were explicitly for tax planning and estate planning purposes.

A former client of mine whom I recently helped in an adult adoption wrote a review of her experience on Avvo.com.  FLORIDA BAR DISCLAIMER: Please note that every case is different, and you may not receive the same or similar results.

You can see the review after the jump:

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Florida Same Sex Relationships: Do I Need To Adopt My Child?

In general, when a baby is born in an intact marriage, that baby is considered the legal child of both spouses.  Similarly, when a married person adopts a child, that child is oftentimes considered the legal child of that married person and his or her spouse.

But what is the status of a child in Florida born of or adopted into a same sex marriage?  In other words, if two men or two women are married in another state, move to Florida, and have a baby, is that baby considered the legal child of both spouses?

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Florida Gay Adoption: The Man And The Ban

I recently wrote a guess blog for South Florida Estate and Business Planning Attorney Barry Haimo on the end of Florida’s categoral ban on adoptions by homosexual individuals.  Below is a reproduction of the article:

In 1977, the Florida Legislature passed a law stating that “No person eligible to adopt under this statute [the Florida Adoption Act] may adopt if that person is a homosexual.” That law still is still on the books as section 63.042(3) of the Florida Statutes.

However, like other laws that are still on the books, section 63.042(3) is no longer enforced because it has been struck down as unconstitutional. Below is a summary of the case, In re the Adoption of XXG and NRG, 45 So. 3d 79 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010), which overturned the United States’ last categorical ban on gay adoption:

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Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

The unfortunate truth is that current Florida law is not conducive to recognizing the relationships that develop in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families.  However, there are steps that Florida and Tampa Bay LGBT parents can take to boost the recognition of their parental rights.

Adoption

If LGBT parents are committed to raising a child together and recognizing each parent’s rights, I highly recommend that partners consider adopting each other’s children.  This helps form an unbreakable legal bond between the children and each partner.  Though the law is not completely settled in this area, the judges in Hillsborough County (including Tampa) are granting adoptions by LGBT partners.  What’s more, an adoption attorney located in Hillsborough County (such as myself) can help Florida parents come before Hillsborough County judges no matter where in Florida the parents live.

Co-Parenting Agreements

Co-parenting agreements can be great evidence that LGBT partners intend to parent children together.  It can boost the argument that “psychological parenting,” or the formation of a parent-like relationship between a child and a non-legal parent, has occurred and make it or more likely that parental rights will be recognized by Florida’s legal system.

Hyphenated or Unified Last Names

A hyphenated or unified last name can go a long way in demonstrating to the Florida legal system that partners intended to raise children together.  For example, if partner 1 is named Jones, and partner 2 is named Smith, it would be helpful to have all partners and children’s last names hyphenated or unified, so that everyone has a last name of Jones-Smith, Smith-Jones, Smones, Jith, etc.  Florida has laws to aid in legal name changes.

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January 2013 Conference for Florida’s Adoptive Parents and Prospective Adoptive Parents

Florida’s Adoption Information Center is holding a conference on Saturday, January 12, 2013, in Jacksonville, Florida, for adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents.

Florida’s Adoption Information Center was “created by the Florida Legislature to serve as a clearinghouse in every area of adoption. The Center has served more than 175,000 people since opening in 1994. As a free service, the Adoption Information Center provides adoption information and referral services to adoptive parents, adult adoptees, birth relatives, pregnant women and professionals.”

Below is the agenda for the conference:

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Video: Same Sex Couple Adopts Child in Florida

The video below from WPTV News showcases a Florida same sex couple who were able to finally and legally expand their family by adopting a foster child for whom they had long looked after:

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

Hillsborough County is a venue that is also friendly towards LGBT families looking to adopt.  Even if you do not live in Hillsborough, you may have your same sex adoption take place in Hillsborough County if you retain an adoption entity located in the county.

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