The recent legal changes allowing gay marriage in Florida may also have an impact on adoption rights and the adoption process for gay couples and families in the state. Historically, it has been difficult for same-sex couples to adopt and enjoy the same legal protections and rights in the state of Florida concerning their children as heterosexual couples.
In 2010, a ban preventing gay individuals from adopting children was struck down, however, challenges for same-sex couples to adopt together remained in place. Limited, and cumbersome, methods existed through which same-sex parents could ensure the same parental rights as heterosexual couples. Because of the limited parental rights of one of the parents in a same-sex household, family members of the biological parent, or parent who legally adopted the child, could enjoy greater rights concerning the child than the other parent in some circumstances.
Second-parent adoption, historically the route for same-sex couples to ensure both parents had parental rights, is oftentimes a difficult and costly process. Experts note that the process may now be obsolete and the legalization of same-sex marriage may allow gay married couples to adopt as heterosexual married couples currently do. Experts also note, however, that it is still advisable for same-sex couples to pursue the legal adoption process because of varying gay marriage laws that still exist both nationally and internationally.
Following the recent changes to gay marriage laws in Florida, married gay parents may now pursue the step-parent adoption process which is a quicker, simpler and less costly adoption process than second-parent adoption and is the adoption process married heterosexual parents currently enjoy. In addition, married gay parents adopting foster children will have access to possibly the least complicated adoption process through joint adoption.
While the U.S. Supreme Court case is pending, and may resolve the gay marriage question throughout the country, gay couples in Florida may get married. Now that gay couples can enjoy the option to marry, significant divorce and adoption hurdles may also be eliminated, as more and more gay couples are free to pursue the same family law legal rights and options as other couples.
Source: Tampa Bay Times, “For gay couples in Florida, an easier path to adoption,” Anna M. Phillips, Jan. 23, 2015