Earlier this week, the justices upheld a challenge brought by an Alabama woman after Alabama’s highest court refused to recognize the adoption she and her former lesbian partner were granted in Georgia.
The parties, who are identified only by the initials V.L. and E.L., were together for 16 years but never married. Through assisted reproductive technology, E.L. gave birth to a child in 2002 and to twins in 2004. After the children were born, V.L. and E.L. raised them together as joint parents. In 2007, while living in Georgia, the parties decided to give legal status to the relationship between V.L. and the children by having V.L. formally adopt them. At the hearing on V.L.’s adoption petition, E.L. consented to V.L.’s adoption of the children without relinquishing her own parental rights as the children’s biological mother. The Georgia court entered a final decree of adoption recognizing both women as the children’s legal parents.
The parents, now living in Alabama, ended their relationship in 2011. After the adoptive mother moved out of the house the couple had shared, the biological mother denied her access to the children. The adoptive mother then petitioned the Alabama courts to register the Georgia adoption judgment and award her partial custody. The Alabama courts initially ordered a decree of shared custody based on the Georgia adoption, however the order was subsequently overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court which held that the Georgia courts had wrongly agreed to the adoption.
The adoptive mother eventually appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the justices unanimously overruled the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that Alabama must give “full faith and credit” to the Georgia adoption decree because “a State may not disregard the judgment of a sister State because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits.”
Pennsylvania provides different options for same-sex couples to create a legal parent and child relationship based on the couple’s marital status. Married same-sex couples can file a step-parent adoption, which allows a parent to adopt their spouse’s child. Pennsylvania also recognizes second-parent adoptions for unmarried same-sex couples. Second-parent adoptions allow for the adoption of a child by the unmarried partner of a biological parent, without terminating the parental rights of the biological parent.
If you or someone you know has a custody or adoption issue, our experienced attorneys can help. For assistance, click or call 610-892-3877