The legalization of same sex marriage in Utah this October brought extensive adoption law changes you need to know about. The laws cover children born to one of the partners, birthed by a surrogate or adopted from a private party or foster care. Adoptions by gay couples were recently put on hold while the Supreme Court made a decision regarding same sex marriage and parental rights. Despite the ruling, your marriage alone does not award both parties in the union with parental rights. The Utah adoption requirements are very strict §78B-6-117(3)
Types of Adoption
Utah couples can adopt children through the foster system, from a private individual or couple, or opt to complete the surrogacy process. Since gay couples may only use the egg or sperm from one of the partners for surrogacy births, the best way to assign parental rights is not always clearly spelled out.
In Utah, parents cannot simply sign the birth certificate and obtain legal rights without biological relation. Instead, partners without direct relation to the child must go through the adoption process with the court to obtain full parental rights.
Completion of the adoption process is also required if only one of the partners adopted the child before the marriage was finalized. New partners must go through the stepparent adoption process for children brought into the family from a prior marriage. Since these rules are often difficult to apply to your own situation, it is wise to talk to a lawyer to determine which actions to take, if any.
Legal Factors of Adopting
When going through the adoption process, the court system will determine if each child in question should be adopted through joint, second parent, stepparent or surrogacy proceedings by reviewing your family’s origins. The court will also review the family history to determine if adoption directly benefits the child.
If the child was produced through surrogacy, the surrogate or donor may need to waive all rights to the child to allow the second parent to file for adoption. The same holds true if a parent from a prior relationship still has legal interest in the child. Court officials will check for reports of abuse for each child and review each parent’s criminal history to make a well-rounded decision based on the child’s best interests.
After a split with your same sex partner, parental rights and custody may be extremely difficult to win, especially for partners without biological relation to the child. In some locations, the amount of time and effort put into parenting the child may not even come into play during the proceedings. Thankfully, many courts will weigh this information when analyzing the family relationships to identify the best interests of the child.
Court officials may also review residency, relationship dynamics and co-parenting efforts to determine which parent has legal right to custody and care. During your divorce, it is likely the judge will require that you draft a parenting agreement alongside your co-parent during the proceedings. If you cannot civilly draft up an agreement, you can receive mediation assistance from your lawyers or a professional mediator.
Changing Same Sex Adoption Laws Require an Experienced Utah Family Law Attorney
You can prevent bias against your union during Utah adoption proceedings by hiring an experienced family law attorney for your case. Your lawyer prepares and presents your case to the court in a favorable light by collecting all of the pertinent information beforehand. If you have any past crimes or other unsavory pieces of your history hidden away, it is important to receive advice from your lawyer about how to handle those items. To make sure the court understands how the adoption benefits the child, you may receive help obtaining documents attesting to your and your partner’s good character traits.
Furthermore, lawyers help you fill out forms correctly to reduce delays throughout this lengthy process. Lawyers make sure all paperwork signed by surrogates and birth parents are legally binding to prevent a heartbreaking reversal of the adoption and full parental rights later on in life. You can often access or use documents prepared by your lawyers during the adoption proceedings to support claims in divorce court if your union does not work out in the end.