Can Same-Sex Couples Adopt A Child In Florida?
Same-sex adoption is a rewarding experience but doesn’t come without its challenges. Fortunately, with all 50 states recognizing same-sex couples’ right to adopt, the options are plentiful.
Despite its complicated history with same-sex adoption, Florida is now a popular destination for gay and lesbian couples looking to adopt a child. But aside from the minimum requirements under the Department of Children and Families (DCF), there is more you need to know about LGBT adoption in the state of Florida.
In this guide, you’ll learn more about adoption rights for same-sex couples in Florida, what the adoption process is like, and how to choose the best adoption agency.
The History Of Same-Sex Adoption In Florida
Gay Adoption Ban In 1977
In 1997, Florida’s legislature prohibited adoption by homosexuals. The law considered gay and lesbian couples physically disabled or handicapped, rendering them incapable of serving as effective parents. Under adoption statute section 63.042, the state of Florida only permitted adoptions by:
- A husband and wife
- An unmarried working person of adult age
- A married person whose spouse is not petitioning to become a parent
In 2010, the Department of Children and Family Services repealed the archaic law when a homosexual Miami-Dade man submitted a petition for the right to adopt to the Third District Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the 1977 ban on gay adoptions unconstitutional, approving the appeal and creating a more inclusive law.
Ban Removal In 2015
Despite the 2010 challenge to the ban, joint gay adoption remained illegal in Florida until 2015. However, in a turn of events, the Supreme Court first deemed Florida’s Federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in 2013 and petitioned for the recognition of gay marriage.
Finally, in 2015, Florida legislation recognized marriage equality and aimed to overturn the risky process of second-parent adoption. For gay families, second-parent adoption isn’t always financially feasible and tends to create psychological stress due to its complexities. Many consider it prohibitive and unnecessary.
Fortunately, the new adoption law states that adoption agencies can no longer prohibit adoptions solely due to the sexual orientation of the prospective parents. The new law also banned prohibitions against gay adoptive parents who decide to educate their children under home study.
Federal Birth Certificate Suit
Despite the state of Florida recognizing the right for a homosexual couple to adopt, the Equality Florida Insitute sued the local government for some lapses. In the lawsuit, two married lesbian couples accused health officials of only acknowledging one parent on the child’s birth certificate.
The Department of Health pleaded to overturn the case to no avail. The health officials lacked authority to change such documents, with the state ruling in favor of the lesbians’ case and forcing a payout of $55,000 in legal fees.
Securing Parental Rights
Unfortunately, despite the 2015 ruling, ensuring parental rights for homosexuals doesn’t come without challenges. In a same-sex relationship, non-biological parents don’t have parental rights to the biological children of their partner.
A non-related spouse doesn’t have any legal rights to a child born from:
- A previous relationship
- A sperm or egg donor
Non-biological parents can secure their rights via step-parent adoption.
Types Of Adoption Processes For Gay & Lesbian Spouses
As LGBT advocates continue to rally for better co-adoption procedures, there are many existing options for same-sex parents.
The most popular option for same-sex couples in Florida is joint adoption. Under Florida family law, a joint adoption allows both individuals, whether married or not, to adopt children simultaneously.
Gay individuals who want to adopt a child can do so through private services or the Florida Department of Children and Families. If undergoing the process through the DCF, the prospective parent will have to take court-appointed classes, attend multiple interviews, and schedule a home visit.
Second Parent Adoption
If an LGBT parent already has a child, they can petition for adoption for their same-sex spouse.
How To Find The Right Adoption Agency
As more adoption agencies work to incorporate non-discrimination policies and gay-friendly procedures, finding the right one is far easier than it used to be. Below are a few tips for selecting the right one.
Find Out If They Are On The HRC’s All Children-All Families List
The Human Rights Campaign’s All-Children-All Families initiative promotes gay rights for same-sex couples looking to petition for gay adoption. When shopping for adoption agencies, couples should first determine whether they carry an HRC seal of approval.
Fortunately, hundreds of adoption agencies now meet its benchmarks, providing couples with comprehensive resources and technical assistance.
Interview Your Prospects
Though many state agencies may consider themselves or be branded as gay-friendly, you and your partner shouldn’t skip the interviews. Speaking with a potential company in advance can unearth red flags – or green ones!
When speaking with a potential agency, consider whether they use inclusive language and answer your questions openly and honestly. Also, consider whether they have a progressive mindset. Watch out for adoption agencies that:
- Don’t offer care to expectant parents
- Don’t use gender-neutral terms
- Charge higher fees for shorter wait times
- Lack post-adoption counseling options
Ask Other LGBT Parents
One of the best ways to scope a potential company is to speak with others who have gone through same-sex adoptions. Many support groups across the U.S. provide helpful information on state laws and the adoption process.
Work With A Family Lawyer
There are many benefits to working with family lawyers – one is that it ensures a seamless adoption regardless of the circumstances. For instance, it can be helpful to consult with a lawyer if you are adopting a child from foster care or one that isn’t biologically yours.
Consulting a lawyer can be helpful to a couple that’s having trouble making their case or understanding family law. An experienced family lawyer can redirect a prospective couple to the right company, prepare them for a home visit, and ensure that their rights are protected.
Questions To Ask An LGBT-Friendly Adoption Agency
LGBT-friendly does not mean LGBT-competent. By asking thoughtful questions, you can get a better feel of how well-versed a particular company is in gay-friendly adoptions.
How many LGBT placements have you facilitated?
No matter the gender or sexual orientation of a client, a reliable adoption company should provide all couples with the same kind of support. A company with a high percentage of LGBT cases and placements indicates that it doesn’t favor one type of couple over another.
Be wary of a company that refuses to answer this question upfront! It could indicate previous conflicts or less-than-stellar performance.
Do you provide birth mom care?
Adoption doesn’t just involve the adoptive couple and their child – a reputable company should also provide care and support for the birth parent. Ask your agent about what type of support they provide, for how long, and whether it is optional or included.
How long does placement take?
Though the vast majority of family law across the U.S. now recognizes same-sex couples’ ability to adopt, not every case will be decided in your favor. Despite laws against LGBT discrimination, some companies will subject same-sex adoptions to longer waiting times compared to heterosexual couples.
Similar placement periods indicate that a company does not place a child according to a potential couple’s gender identity.
Can you connect us to a previous adoptive parent?
Reputable services should have no problem connecting a prospective adoptive person to their former clients (with said clients’ consent, of course). In discussing a past client’s previous experience, you and your partner can make a more informed decision. You can also get a better feel of what kind of service you’re working with and whether they abide by state laws.
The Bottom Line
When it comes to non-discriminatory and inclusive adoptions, some states have a long way to go. Fortunately, Florida’s three-decade struggle against an archaic statute against same-sex adoptions has provided LGBT prospective parents with the rights they deserve.
With careful research and help from other couples, gays, lesbians, and LGBT community members across the country can link up with the best Florida adoption services for a long-awaited happy ending (or beginning).