What to Know About Second Parent Adoption

Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on May 23, 2022

If you're a nonlegal parent, you may have wondered if second parent adoption is a good option for you to gain legal parental rights. But what is second parent adoption? Second parent adoption — also called co-parent adoption — is adoption of a child by a second parent figure who is partnered or co-parenting with the child's legal parent. The "first" parent does not lose parental rights in this kind of adoption. The second parent adoption allows the nonlegal parent to become a legal parent, assuming all legal rights and responsibilities. Second parent adoptions are common in situations like: 

  • LGBTQ+ families where only one parent is biologically related to the child
  • Couples who conceived using donor gametes, such as donor eggs or sperm
  • Step-parents who wish to adopt their stepchild 

Even today, with LGBTQ+ marriage and adoption legal across the U.S., organizations like the National Center for Lesbian Rights recommend that nonbiological and nonadoptive parents legally adopt their children to protect their parental rights.

What Is the Adoption Process?

The adoption process can be intimidating to many parents. Adoption paperwork can be complex, and many parents elect to hire an adoption attorney to help them navigate second parent adoption forms, home studies, and court dates. An adoption attorney can help take some of the stress away from your adoption process, make sure that you clearly understand all of your options, and help you get all of your affairs in order.

Your Home Study

A home study is a visit by a social worker or another neutral third party who assesses your home, family, and whether the second parent adoption is in the child's best interest. The social worker conducting your home study will visit your home, interview all family members, and assess your financial stability. If your child is old enough, the social worker will likely discuss the upcoming adoption with the child and evaluate their feelings about being adopted by a second parent. While you don't need to be wealthy or in perfect health, you will need to demonstrate that you are mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially stable and can provide for all of your child's needs. 

You'll need to submit a significant amount of paperwork with your home study, including:

  • Medical records
  • Financial statements
  • Child abuse and criminal clearances
  • Marriage certificates (if applicable)
  • Original adoption decrees (if the legal parent adopted your child)
  • Work history
  • Personal references
  • Written consent to adoption from the legal parent (if your child already has a second legal parent)

Filing for Adoption

Once your home study is complete, you'll need to file a petition for adoption with the court. Paperwork requirements vary by area, and your attorney or your local family court can tell you what you need to file. You'll need to submit your home study report and any additional required paperwork to the court and your local child welfare agency. 

The court will review your petition and all accompanying paperwork. They may ask for additional documentation, which you will need to provide. 

Your Court Hearing

A court hearing will be scheduled where the judge can speak to the legal parent and the second parent and clarify their intentions to raise the child together and be jointly legally responsible for the child's well-being. If the child is old enough, the judge will talk to the child about their relationship with their legal and second parent and make sure they understand what the adoption means for their future. If the judge agrees to finalize the adoption, the judge will enter an adoption order into court records. If your child is changing their name due to the adoption, the name change can also be done at this time. 

How Can I Prepare for a Home Study?

Home studies can feel very intimidating. Many parents feel like they're being scrutinized under a microscope, and some parents feel pressured to get their house perfectly clean and orderly. Try not to worry too much — social workers aren't looking for perfect parents. Your social worker wants to make sure that you can provide a safe, stable, loving home that takes care of all of your child's needs. Some things you can do to make your home study smoother include:

  • Finding out from your attorney or social services what documents you need to provide and preparing them in advance.
  • Being honest with your social worker — being upfront about financial, legal, or medical problems gives you the chance to tell your social worker how you've addressed these issues.
  • Letting your social worker know of any plans you have that you haven't completed yet — for example, if you plan to turn a spare room into a bedroom for your child.
  • Talking to your partner. Your social worker will likely interview the first and second parents separately. You don't need to agree on everything 100%, but you need to be on the same page about the adoption and have a general agreement about the child's welfare. 
  • Talking to any other children you have about the adoption and its meaning. The social worker will want to know that the whole family is prepared.

What Changes After the Adoption?

After the second parent adoption is finalized, the second parent has all of the same legal rights as any other biological or adoptive parent. The second parent and the legal parent will have an equal say in all decisions for the child, including medical, educational, cultural, and religious choices. If the legal parent and the second parent split up or get divorced after an adoption, the second parent will still have legal parenting rights. The adoption will protect the child's right to an inheritance in your state. 

Some children may change their names due to the adoption. In this case, the court will process their legal name change and add their new legal name to their birth certificate. The second parent will also be listed on their birth certificate. 

Show Sources


Family Equality: "What's a Second Parent adoption?"

National Center for Lesbian Rights: "Legal Recognition of LGBT Families."

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