Aug 18

Second Parent Adoption in New Hampshire: FAQs

Second Parent Adoptions New HampshireQ: Are second parent adoptions available in New Hampshire for same-sex parents?

A: Second parent adoptions (also called co-parent adoptions) are available in New Hampshire for married same-sex parents, utilizing either the state’s stepparent adoption laws or the joint adoption laws. This type of adoption allows a non-biological parent to establish a legal bond with his/her child without permanently cutting off the biological parent’s parental rights. This legal bond protects the parental rights of the non-biological parent, and also protects the child’s ability to have a legal relationship with his/her non-biological parent.

Q: What is the purpose of a second parent adoption?

A: Adoption is a legal process that creates a permanent legal relationship between a parent and a child. This means the child’s non-biological parent will be recognized as a full legal parent and allowed to exercise all parental rights and responsibilities in accordance with New Hampshire law. These rights include making decisions about the child’s upbringing, education, religion, and medical care. The child also receives legal benefits through the parent, such as health insurance, child support, and inheritance rights. Because this is a permanent legal bond, the non-biological parent’s legal tie is not severed in case of death or divorce. Thus, the non-biological parent is entitled to parenting time (“custody and visitation”) to the same extent as any other parent in New Hampshire. This provides an additional protection from the child being uprooted from his/her non-biological parent.

Q: I’m a non-biological mother, but my name is already on my child’s birth certificate. Do I also need to consider adoption?

A: A second parent adoption is critically important to protect your legal relationship with your child. While New Hampshire birth certificates are routinely issued with the names of two mothers, a birth certificate does not establish the kind of solid legal tie that an adoption does. Typically, a non-biological mother’s name is placed upon the child’s birth certificate because of a “presumption” of parentage. The problem is that your status as a parent can be challenged, and other states are not required to recognize your parent-child relationship. Thus, your legal relationship with your child is at risk, particularly if you travel or move to a state that won’t recognize your child’s birth certificate or if your child was conceived with help from a known sperm donor. LGBTQ advocacy organizations, such as GLAD, recommend second parent adoptions to secure your family’s legal ties even when both parents are listed upon the birth certificate. In addition, the law may exclude your child from inheritance and family trusts on the non-biological family’s side. An adoption can often fix this inequity.

Q: We are a gay male couple and our child was conceived with the help of a gestational surrogate and egg donor. We already have a birth certificate containing both of our names on it. Do we still need to pursue an adoption?

A: A second parent adoption is important to protect your family for similar reasons as for female couples [see above]. In New Hampshire, it is possible to pursue an adoption without conducting paternity testing, if avoiding such testing is important to you.

Q: Is a home study required for a second parent adoption in New Hampshire?

A: Generally not. The non-biological parent will undergo only an abbreviated background check.

Q: Is a second parent adoption still necessary now that the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages?

A: Even though the federal government does now recognize lawful same-sex marriages, other states and countries still don’t have to grant recognition to such marriages. Most gay and lesbian couples in New Hampshire will be impacted by the laws of other places, either through travel, relocation, or because they have family, employers, or other connections based out-of-state. Thus, second parent adoption remains an important tool to establish a firm legal bond between parent and child.

Q: I am a biological (genetic) mother through Reciprocal IVF. Is an adoption recommended for me?

A: Generally, a parentage judgment is sufficient for mothers via Reciprocal IVF (“Co-Maternity IVF”), but this is something I recommend we discuss in more detail.

Q: We used a known sperm donor to build our family. How do we terminate his rights to the child?

A: We can use the second parent adoption process to also terminate the legal rights of the known sperm donor.

Q: I co-parent my partner’s child but neither of us wants to get married at this time. What options do we have as unmarried same-sex parents?

A: In New Hampshire, it can be more challenging to establish a legal tie when the parents are not married, but there are still some options available for you. Please contact me so we can set up some time to discuss this in more detail.

Please contact me at the Law Office of Catherine Tucker to learn more about second parent adoptions in New Hampshire.

NH Reproductive Attorney Catherine Tucker