Same Sex Adoption without Same Sex Marriage?

To follow up on a previous article on the Charlotte Divorce Lawyer Blog, in December, the North Carolina Supreme Court voided the adoption of a child by a lesbian mother who was raising the child with her former partner. This case, discussed in a previous post, involved two women who were litigating custody issues after a so-called “second parent adoption” in 2005. Melissa Jarrell, the ex-partner of former North Carolina Senator Julia Boseman, is the biological mother of the child. The women planned for a child together, and Jarrell consented to Boseman adopting the child in 2005, as a 3-year-old. The couple broke up in 2006, and Jarrell petitioned for sole custody, claiming that the adoption should never have been granted because North Carolina law does not permit second parent adoptions. The trial court and the Court of Appeals upheld the adoption. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling with regard to the adoption, but upheld the ruling granting Boseman joint custody.

The Court’s majority opinion stated that the adoption granted to Boseman was invalid from the beginning because the adoption court did not have the authority to grant the adoption. North Carolina statutes permit adoptions only if the existing parent gives up all rights or is married to the person seeking to adopt. Because neither condition existed in this case, the Supreme Court held that the adoption court improperly granted the child’s adoption by Boseman. This ruling could have an impact on the legality of many second-parent adoptions in the state, leaving them open to challenge. Such adoptions have only been granted in two North Carolina counties, and impact perhaps several hundred families in the state.

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