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Adoptions by same-sex couples: Importance of state law differences

Massachusetts residents know that the day a family adds an adopted child to their home is very memorable and happy. Leading up to that day, the family has likely spent a lot of time working towards bringing their child home. Adoptions are difficult processes, regardless of where they occur. However, when same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage or adoption is not recognized choose to adopt, the process is even more difficult.

One Arizona same-sex couple has been together for nearly twenty years and have 12 adopted foster children. Until recently, all but two of the children were adopted by only one of the fathers, since Arizona does not allow same-sex marriage or adoption. Two of the couple's children have both fathers listed on their birth certificates because they were adopted in Washington, where same-sex adoption is allowed.

The couple has found ways to make their situation work, even when one father is not recognized legally as a parent. For instance, one father changed his last name so the entire family shares a last name. They have also written out guardianship papers through an attorney, so that the children will always be able to stay with one of the fathers if something happens to the other.

Recently, the Washington attorney that helped the couple adopt two children, offered to process the other 10 children's adoptions for the price of one adoption. Now, both fathers have legally adopted all of their children.

For same-sex couples in Massachusetts, the exact legal issues of the Arizona couple do not apply, because Massachusetts does recognize same-sex marriages. However, if a Massachusetts couple moves to a state where same-sex marriage is not recognized, child custody issues could arise. Legally adopting a partner's children is a way to safeguard the rights of a family.

Source: Tucson Citizen, "Gay dads, 12 kids are officially a family," Karina Bland, Aug. 11, 2012

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