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Is Florida’s Gay Adoption Ban Still On The Books?

Most people know that, for a long time, Florida did not permit gay individuals to adopt children.

Florida’s adoption laws were and are mainly based on the best interests of the child.  Even if a prospective adoptive parent were a convicted violent felon, the felony likely would not automatically prevent an adoption from happening; the judge would need to entertain evidence and make a determination about whether, despite the felony, the adoption was in the best interests of the adoptee.

But if a prospective adoptive parent were gay, and the judge knew this fact, there would be no analysis.  A gay person was not permitted under Florida law to adopt a child, regardless of whether it was in the child’s best interest.

However, that all changed in 2010, when Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals published its decision in In re the Adoption of XXG and NRG.

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Texas Judge Rules Denial of Same Sex Divorce Unconstitutional

In a case with many similarities to the Florida same sex divorce matter being deliberated here in Tampa, a district judge in Texas has ruled that, despite that state’s same sex marriage ban, two women should be permitted to divorce.  In fact, according to the Daily Kos, the Texas judge ruled that their Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and so this divorce case should proceed like any other divorce:

Judge Barbara Nellermoe, in a five-page ruling released Tuesday, pinpointed three portions of the Texas Family Code as unconstitutional, as well as Section 32 of the Texas Constitution. Nellermoe wrote that “in a well-reasoned opinion by Judge Orlando Garcia, the federal district court found that a state cannot do what the federal government cannot – that is, it cannot discriminate against same-sex couples.”

The trial judge found that the state had no rational basis to deny recognition of same sex married couples.  Judge Nellermoe also found that “Texas’ denial of recognition of the parties’ out-of-state same-sex marriage violates equal protection and due process rights when Texas does afford full faith and credit to opposite-sex marriages celebrated in other states.”

According to the Austin Statesman, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot subsequently responded by asking the 4th Court of Appeals to stay, or pause, Judge Nellermoe’s proceedings, and the appellate court granted that request.  This does not mean that the appellate court will reverse Judge Nellermoe’s ruling; it just means that it will hear arguments, set for May 5, and make a determination later.

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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 Supreme Court Rules Lesbian Egg Donor Has Right to Partner’s Child

In a landmark decision in the matter of D.M.T. v. T.M.H., the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a woman who donated her fertilized egg to her partner, who in turn gave birth to a child, has a right to parent the child.

Last year I summarized the facts of this case when it was going through the Fifth District Court of Appeals of Florida:

Two women are in a committed lesbian relationship when they decide to have a child together using reproductive technologies.  One woman (the “Genetic Mother”) supplies the egg and has it fertilized.  That egg is then implanted into her partner (the “Birth Mother”) who gives birth in 2004.

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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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Tampa May Expand Domestic Partnership Recognition

The City of Tampa is considering an ordinance that would recognize domestic partnerships from communities around the United States.  Currently, Tampa only recognizes the rights of those domestic partners who have registered with Tampa’s domestic partnership registry.  According to the Tampa Bay Times:

Related:  Five Legal Steps Florida LGBT Parents Should Take

City Council instructed its attorneys to draft an ordinance that would allow Tampa to offer equal protection to couples recognized in domestic partner registries outside the city. Council members had considered creating agreements with surrounding municipal governments to recognize each others’ registries. But seeing as that process that council member Yvonne Yolie Capin said could be “arduous,” the council opted to draft a law allowing Tampa to recognize other registries — regardless of whether those cities reciprocate.

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A draft of an ordinance is scheduled to be reviewed by council members on Sept. 27.

Tampa’s domestic partnership registry is open to couples who are 18 or older, unmarried and not related by blood, who live together and consider each other to be immediate family. Registered domestic partners each have rights historically recognized for immediate relatives: Being notified that a partner has been in an accident, visiting each other in the hospital, making medical decisions for a partner who cannot do so, and making funeral arrangements for each other.

If you would like to learn more about your Florida family law rights, including adoption, child custody, or domestic partnership agreements, schedule a consultation The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our online form.

In Which County Should I File My Florida Adoption Case?

Florida law provides a choice as to where prospective parents should file a case for termination of parental rights and adoption.  Generally, the adoption must be filed where (i) the child lives or (ii) the adoption entity, intermediary, or attorney for the prospective parents is located.

Which of these counties is chosen may be a strategic decision…

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