The Second Parent law opened the doors for dual parenting in gay and lesbian households. Before the law took effect, gay and lesbian parents were forced to choose which parent would have legal custody of a child or accept the fact that the biological parent was the only legal parent recognized by law. Just because the Second Parent law allows the non-legal partner in a gay or lesbian relationship to apply for legal parental rights, does not mean every couple should take that step.
Legal Binds Between Gay and Lesbian Partners
The legally binding contract of marriage is not available in all states for couples of the same sex. If the couple is not legally married, issues could surface if the couple were to split while having shared custody of a child or children. Once both partners have adopted a child, they are both legally responsible for the health and financial well-being of that child. Moreover, both have legal rights as parents identical to those of heterosexual parents.
The issue is not about acceptance of these parental responsibilities, but of support in terms of hashing out the details of shared parenthood after a relationship has ended. For married heterosexual or homosexual couples, there is a step-by-step process in many states that force parents to go through parenting classes and meet with a mediator if a common agreement on parental rights cannot be found. These classes are often a part of the divorce process.
If a gay or lesbian couple is not legally married, there is no court system needed to end a relationship. However, the adoption of a child continues to bind the two together until the child reaches legal age. When discussing the adoption of a child by the partner, this fact should be thoroughly covered and possibly discussed with an attorney present.
Legal Options for Partner Adoption
If a partners choose to share custody of a child, regardless of the whether one partner is a biological parent or not, a parental agreement may be drawn up by legal counsel. The parental agreement would cover the course of action to be taken after a split, legal rights accepted by both parents and a viable schedule of visitation that could be observed. Similar to a prenuptial agreement, gay and lesbian couples may wish to have this document drawn and signed before allowing a partner to legally adopt a child in the home.