In 2008, Arkansas voters enacted a ballot measure preventing unmarried couples who were living together from adopting children. The law did not explicitly state sexual orientation, but since same-sex couples could not legally be married, this measure effectively prevented them from ever being able to adopt, except as single individuals. This led to a situation where the choice to cohabit or be intimate outside of marriage would if discovered by the state, effectively preclude them from the possibility of adoption. The measure was overturned in 2011 by the state Supreme Court as a violation of privacy of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Then, in 2015, when same-sex marriage became legal nationwide, the question became less complicated, as now LGBT couples who are married enjoy the same rights as anyone else, including the ability to adopt.
LGBT adoption lawyers will be the first to admit that every LGBT adoption, just like any other adoption, is unique and depends upon the circumstances of the parent and the child. Often, the kind of adoption seen in same-sex couples is step-parent adoption, where one spouse's children from a previous relationship (or previously adopted as an individual) are adopted legally by the other spouse. However, same-sex couples also adopt children not biologically related after marriage. As always, the information given here is not intended as legal advice from LGBT adoption attorneys, and for information specific to your needs and situations, contact an LGBT adoption lawyer today.
How Do LGBT Couples Adopt in Arkansas? Insight from LGBT Adoption Lawyers
Before the marriage equality ruling, and before 2011 when the ban was lifted on unmarried couples adopting, LGBT individuals could only adopt when they were living alone and not in a relationship. After that ban was lifted, same-sex couples were not explicitly forbidden from adopting, but still faced difficulties if trying to adopt as a couple. Today, married same-sex couples enjoy the same adoption rules and requirements as any other married couple.
Additionally, if one partner in a same-sex couple has a child already, either biologically or via adoption, then the other spouse can adopt the child, as well. In fact, there are compelling legal reasons to do so, not the least of which is securing the ability to stay in contact with the child in the event of a divorce. Whether you are pursuing a new adoption or a step-parent adoption, both of these are best assisted by an LGBT adoption lawyer in Arkansas.
How Long Does a Couple in Arkansas Need to Be Married Before Pursuing Adoption?
Since 2011, second-parent adoptions allowing unmarried couples to adopt children have been allowed in Arkansas, and as such, there is no minimum length of time that a couple needs to be married in order to petition for step-parent adoption. For LGBT couples, this means there are good options for adopting for both unmarried and married couples, but adoption after marriage tends to be easier. An LGBT adoption lawyer can help you to complete the proper forms and get through this process.
One of the vital issues in step-parent adoption and in LGBT adoption, in general, is the question of addressing the rights of the other biological parent. In certain circumstances, this is a simple matter. If the other biological parent gives consent in writing or has no contact with the child for a long period of time, then there is usually a straightforward path to adoption for the other parent. Complications can arise, however, when a parent who is otherwise out of the picture keeps minimal contact with the child, such as on birthdays and holidays. Your LGBT adoption lawyer will be able to explain the legal implications of your situation in detail, but here is a general overview.
Parental Consent and Abandoned Children: Insight from LGBT Adoption Lawyers in Arkansas
Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-9-207 says that, if a couple is unable to get consent from the other biological parent of a child, this consent is not needed in instances where the child is considered abandoned by that parent. Arkansas courts define abandonment as a significant failure to communicate with and provide for the child for a period of a year. This failure needs to be shown to be willful, voluntary, and arbitrary, without a valid excuse (such as being medically incapacitated). The year does not necessarily need to be the one immediately preceding the adoption. After making no contact with the child for a year, making contact after the fact does not erase the failure.
This can create a frustrating situation in which an absentee parent fulfills all the legal requirements, but has no additional contact with the child. Sending a birthday or Christmas card containing money, or talking to the child for a few minutes 3-4 times a year is not any kind of parenting relationship, but legally, the child has not been abandoned. Does this mean that adoption is impossible for a child in this situation? No.
With the help of your LGBT adoption attorney, a court will always consider what is in the child's best interest. If a step-parent is able to prove that the adoption is in the child's best interests (and evidence of a situation like the one described above would certainly be compelling), then the court may grant the adoption even over the other parent's objection. However, the evidence is required to show that the child's situation will be materially improved by the adoption. By working with your LGBT adoption lawyer, you can put together the strongest possible case for this.
Regarding legal precedent, courts in Arkansas have ruled in the past that adoption is in a child’s best interest when a biological parent, who lives several hours away, only communicates via telephone once or twice a month and otherwise makes no effort to support or contact the child. If you have verifiable facts like these on your side, and the assistance of a qualified LGBT adoption lawyer, this can be the foundation for a strong case against the absentee parent.
If you are trying to pursue a step-parent adoption or second parent adoption and are running into trouble with the child’s birth parent, contact an LGBT adoption attorney as soon as possible to learn how you can find a path to adoption for your new family.
Adoption Costs in Arkansas: Insight from LGBT Adoption Attorneys
The decision to adopt is never one to be made lightly, and this is never truer than in the case of newborn adoption. There are many agencies in the state which can work to match you and your spouse with a birth mother who, for one reason or another, needs to give up her child for adoption. This is a scary and trying process for both you, the adoptive parents, and for the mother, who is faced with a very difficult choice. In most cases, once a family has been matched, they can have a newborn in the home in about six months, with more than 25,000 families in the US – LGBT and otherwise – adopting newborns each year.
Though LGBT adoption lawyers will be quick to remind you that every birth and every birth mother, is a unique situation, making accurate cost estimates difficult or impossible. The mother’s needs will need to be assessed, and this entire process can and should be done with the assistance of an LGBT adoption attorney. Your lawyer can interview you both in addition to potential birth mothers, gathering a good amount of information from each, in order to foster the process successfully. From there, your LGBT adoption lawyer will be able to help you set out a plan for adoption which works for everyone.
Do I Have to Hire an LGBT Adoption Lawyer in Arkansas Before I Can Adopt?
Adopting a child, unfortunately, is a more complicated process than simply having one the ‘old fashioned way.’ Adoption is often a great option to expand an LGBT family, and its strict guidelines and regulation make an LGBT adoption attorney very beneficial to have. While it is certainly possible to adopt a child (either a newborn, a foster child, or a step-child) on your own, by consulting with a qualified and experienced LGBT adoption lawyer you will ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Your LGBT adoption attorney will answer any questions you may have about the process of adopting in Arkansas, assess any risks you may come across, and present the best options available to you in a legally sound adoption plan.
If you are a same-sex couple and are considering adopting a child in Arkansas, whether you wish to foster, adopt a newborn, or simply formalize an existing relationship via a step-parent or second parent adoption, contact an LGBT adoption lawyer today. We will help you determine the best course of action, and work to ensure that your adoption process is as positive and as painless as possible.