Due to the ongoing same sex marriage debate happening in our country, many may be wondering if same sex marriage is legal in North Carolina. On October 10, 2014, North Carolina became one of the states that allow gay marriage. Prior to this ruling, same-sex couples had basic rights denied to them, such as the right to marry their partner. This legal prohibition in turn denied same-sex couples other basic rights that heterosexual couples enjoyed, such as the ability to establish a legal relationship between both parents and any children raised by the couple. Same-sex couples knew these hurdles all too well. However, as of very recently, these hurdles have presumably been knocked down and the door has been opened for same-sex couples to adopt and establish legal relationships between both parents and the children they are raising.
On October 10, 2014, a U.S. District Court judge struck down North Carolina’s prohibition of same-sex marriages by ruling that such a prohibition was unconstitutional. Whereas before only married couples and individuals (gay or straight individuals) could adopt children in North Carolina, this recent ruling will allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt a child because North Carolina now recognizes same-sex marriage as a legal marriage. Same sex adoption laws allow same-sex couples to either adopt through a licensed adoption agency or through a private adoption process from relatives.
Another way in which same-sex couples may now adopt a child based on this recent change of law is in the following scenario: Mother One adopted child several years ago. Mother Two entered into a relationship with Mother One and they have lived together as if married for several years, raising the child together as the child’s parents. Child sees both Mothers as his parents and is used to same sex parenting. Mother One and Mother Two get married to one another pursuant to North Carolina’s recent ruling. Mother Two can now seek to adopt the child (just as Mother One did years ago) and establish a legal relationship with the child that will be recognized under the law.
Another scenario: Mother One is the biological mother of child. Mother One divorces her husband and her husband is out of the picture. He does not see the child, contact the child or pay any child support to Mother One for the child’s reasonable needs and expenses. Mother One gets married to Mother Two and Mother Two effectively becomes the child’s second parent. Mother Two may now seek to adopt the child, assuming Husband consents to the adoption or if not, Husband’s parental rights are terminated pursuant to North Carolina General Statutes 7B-1111 and its subsections.
However, North Carolina still prohibits what are called, ‘second parent adoptions.’ This prohibition applies to both gay and straight couples and disallows an unmarried person to adopt his or her partner’s child (adopted or biological). For more information, please read North Carolina Adoption Laws: A General Overview.
The change of law in North Carolina has not been without its dissenters, but in this author’s opinion, it undoubtedly protects the best interests of a child who is either already in a home of a same-sex couple or is seeking to be adopted by a same-sex couple. It provides the child with two legally recognized parents which in turn helps protect the child on various fronts (healthcare coverage, certainty of guardianship in the event a parent dies, etc.).
If you are a same-sex couple in the greater Charlotte area looking to adopt a child, contact our office to discuss your options and how we can help you navigate the adoption process.