The U.S. Supreme Court made a historic decision recognizing same-sex couples’ rights nationwide in 2015. But a year prior, North Carolina had already made a landmark with U.S. District Court ruling declaring the ban on same-sex marriages unconstitutional.
As much as these legislative developments mean opportunities for same-sex couples who eventually intend to build their own families through adoption, certain legal challenges are still under consideration.
Before embarking on your adoption journey
The adoption process tends to vary per state. Before finalizing such a life-altering decision, you and your same-sex partner must contemplate these considerations shedding some light on North Carolina’s adoption rules.
- Marriage first: Regardless of gender, the state requires that couples marry first before proceeding with adoption. Once you are married and you don’t have a child before your relationship, you may opt to petition for joint adoption.
- Stepparent adoption: With second-parent adoption not allowed in the state, stepparenting establishes the non-biological parent’s parental rights and establishes a legal relationship between them and their spouse’s biological child. The same would be the case if there was a child adopted before the course of their marriage.
However, marriage is not the sole criterion to be eligible for a stepparent adoption. First, your marriage should last for at least six months. You should have also resided in North Carolina with your spouse and their child for at least six months. If your marriage lasted less than two years, you could expect a home visit and a comprehensive 10-year criminal background check.
Further, the child over 12 years old and both legal parents must also consent. A hearing takes place if there are consent contentions from the child’s other biological parent.
A non-spouse parent’s consent
A non-spouse parent is the child’s other biological parent not in a same-sex relationship. If they refuse to terminate their parental rights and don’t grant consent, the adoption may be unable to push through. But the court always upholds the child’s best interests. The non-spouse parent must sufficiently demonstrate that retaining parental rights serves the child’s overall welfare.
Recognizing family expansion in all its forms
Regardless of sexual orientation, building your family through adoption is an experience of a lifetime. As rewarding as the process is, you’ll still have to surmount various legal hurdles. Especially for areas of law like this that seem to change constantly, it would help to have a legal counsel to turn to for reliable advice.