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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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Florida Adult Adoption and Inheritence

When clients come to me and ask about the effects of Florida adult adoption, one subject that often comes up is how an adult adoptee will be treated for purposes of inheritance and the laws of intestacy.  Florida estate planning attorney Barry Haimo discusses this subject in a recent blog article:

Florida law provides for adopted children to be included in the definition of descendant for purposes of the laws of intestacy. Most documents provide similar language to ensure that adopted children are treated as children for inheritance purposes…

The issue presented here is that neither the law nor documents generally provide a limitation on adoption for purposes of class gifts. Should there be age limitations? Timing limitations (such as when the order is entered)? In this regard, we’re really focusing on adult adoption…

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I’m An Adult. Can My Stepparent Adopt Me?

When people think of adoption, they generally envision an adult adopting a minor child.  The adult may be a close relative or stepparent of the child, or not related to the child at all, but this is seen as the norm.

But can an adult adopt another adult?  Can a stepparent adopt an adult stepchild?

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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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32 Year Old Man Legally Adopted

CNN has been reporting the story of Maurice Smith, a man who was adopted by his foster parents. Mr. Smith was an adult (32 years old) at the time of the adoption. Below is the video:

As in this story, adults may be adopted by their foster parents in Florida.

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I am an Adult – Is it too Late for My Florida Foster Parents to Adopt Me?

Many Florida foster parents and foster children have the mistaken belief that, once a child turns 18, he or she is no longer eligible for adoption.  In fact, Florida Statutes section 63.042 states explicitly that “[a]ny person, a minor or an adult, may be adopted.”

When teenagers come to live in a foster home, they oftentimes do not want to be adopted as they are seeking to exert their independence and may see adoption as a hindrance to that independence.

However, as children become older and more bonded to their foster parents, they may come to appreciate the permanence that comes with adoption.  Further, as foster children become adults, and begin thinking about starting their own families, they may come to realize that they want their children to have grandparents.

Fortunately, Florida has expedited procedures for adult adoption.

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A Tampa Adoption Story

Jeff Stidham posted the following Tampa adoption story on the website of Hillsborough County’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit:

Three weeks before their fifth anniversary, Ali and Tonya Muhammad began preparing for a new arrival: a baby boy destined to become one of their own. They welcomed young Marcus on Nov. 5, 2010, three days after his birth. Their anniversary.

And so began a two-year journey toward adoption that concluded Nov. 16 on National Adoption Day, when Marcus, now called Sameer, became part of a “forever family.”

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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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