GLAD strongly recommends that you still do a second-parent adoption. Because the marriage or civil union could encounter a lack of respect in some states, relying on the fact of the marriage or civil union alone to protect their children is not the best approach. It is advisable to continue the practice of securing a second-parent adoption in order to obtain a decree of legal parenthood that should be generally recognized and is independent of the marriage or civil union.
This document can only provide general information about the need to establish legal parenthood independent of a marriage or civil union. For you and your children, we cannot urge more strongly that you consult an attorney about undertaking co-parent adoption. Contact GLAD for more information and to obtain referrals to adoption attorneys.
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.
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 represent Janet in the Vermont proceedings. For more information about the case, go to https://www.glad.org/work/cases/miller-jenkins-v-miller-jenkins.