Same-Sex Couples and Adoption in Alabama: A Guide

Adoption in the state of Alabama occurs when an adult legally obtains all the parental rights and responsibilities to a child under the age of 19. While Alabama’s state laws do not expressly recognize same-sex marriages, The Supreme Court’s ruling in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges formally legalized same-sex marriage and this ruling extends to all states, including Alabama. Because same-sex marriages are now legally recognized in Alabama, same-sex couples enjoy the same rights including the rights to adopt a child as long as they meet all the other adoption eligibility requirements. With that being said, the Alabama legislature has allowed faith-based private adoption agencies to deny same-sex couples from adopting children in their care. This does not apply to adoption agencies funded by either the state or federal government.

The Marital Presumption Doesn’t Apply to Same-Sex Couples

In Alabama, like many states across the United States, there is a legal principle in place called the marital presumption (more broadly covered under a paternity presumption). It essentially states that any child physically born to one spouse is assumed to be a child of the marriage, and thus custody goes to both spouses, with limited exceptions. Some states have extended this presumption to all marriages, allowing for female same-sex couples to both be recognized as legal parents at the time of their child’s birth. Alabama, however, still specifies a “man” and a “woman”. Therefore, even though same-sex marriage is recognized in Alabama, the marital presumption does not apply to children born to a same-sex marriage.

Same-Sex Joint Adoption

Because same-sex marriages are recognized in Alabama, a same-sex couple can adopt a child jointly just like a heterosexual married couple. For couples expanding their families via surrogacy, custody is generally specified and provided for within the surrogacy contract.

Other Adoption Options: Step-Parent, Co-Parent, and Second Parent

Step-parent, second parent, or co-parent adoption allows a same-sex partner, married or otherwise, to legally adopt their spouse’s biological or adopted child without terminating the first parent’s parental rights. Second parent adoptions are most common with female same-sex couples, but are applicable in other circumstances. Commonly, the birthing parent obtains legal rights to the child at the time of their birth whereas the second parent or co-parent must obtain the legal rights after via adoption. It is in the best interests of the family to begin the adoption process for the second parent as quickly as possible.

Experienced Alabama Adoption Attorneys

The Hankey Law Firm, which serves the counties of Cullman, Blount, Winston, Madison, Morgan, and beyond, has over 55 years of combined experience in family law. With a proven track record of success, The Hankey Law Firm is well-prepared to meet all of your adoption and family law needs with expertise, sensitivity, compassion, and dedication. We are a client-centric practice and we will protect your rights and fight for you every step of the way. Contact us today so we can discuss your case and get started fighting for you.