A second parent adoption is the best way to ensure the ongoing parental rights of both partners. Even if New Hampshire law presumes you are a legal parent, another state may not respect that presumption if you or your partner moves. By contrast, adoption is a court judgment creating a parent-child relationship and is very likely to be respected by other states, even if these states are otherwise hostile to same-sex couples parenting.
Relying on a partner’s good will, or even on the fact that a child was born into a marriage or civil union, is not the best way to ensure the ongoing rights of both parents if a couple later separates. A case in point is Miller-Jenkins v. Miller-Jenkins. This case has been in litigation since 2004, has involved two state Supreme Courts (Vermont and Virginia), and has already made several trips to the U.S. Supreme Court. Proceedings are ongoing.
In that case, Janet and Lisa had a child, Isabella, while they were in a civil union. Janet did not adopt. After the couple separated, Lisa moved to Virginia and used both the lack of an adoption, and Virginia’s laws hostile to same-sex relationships to thwart Janet’s contact with their daughter. Finally, however, the Virginia courts agreed that the Vermont courts had the authority to make custody and visitation decisions.
After many attempts to get Lisa to allow Janet visitation rights, in November, 2009, the Vermont Family Court issued an order granting Janet responsibility for the day-to-day care of Isabella while granting Lisa liberal visitation rights. The transfer of custody was to have taken place on January 1, 2010. However, Lisa failed to appear at the appointed time, and an arrest warrant was issued. Lisa and Isabella still have not been found.
GLAD and local counsel represented Janet in the Vermont proceedings. For more information about the case, go to https://www.glad.org/work/cases/miller-jenkins-v-miller-jenkins.