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Must a state honor an adoption order from another state?

Family law matters are not the typical docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. In the wake of same-sex marital rights, however, corollary issues are surfacing.

Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court made a rare move and granted a stay of a lower state court’s decision. The state court had denied an adoptive mother’s request for visitation rights. The stay seems to suggest that even the Supreme Court recognizes that irreparable harm might have been done to the parent-child relationship if the lower court’s denial of visitation had been allowed to stand.

Generally speaking, the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution requires states to recognize valid legal decrees from other states. In the context of adoption, a valid procedure in one state should have full effect in any other state. However, the state court in this story declined to recognize the same-sex couple’s adoption, and denied visitation rights to the adoptive parent of the children on that basis. 

The woman had been the partner of the biological mother of the three children, but the couple never married. The adoptions occurred when the couple was living in a neighboring state, and before the Supreme Court’s recent determination of same-sex marriage rights. The couple subsequently moved, and their unmarried relationship ended in that new state.

Visitation often arises in the context of a court’s child custody determinations. In Florida, 13 factors contribute to that process. With so many variables, it is important to consult with a family law attorney to present as much evidence as possible in support of each factor.  

Source: Newsroom America, “U. of I. News: Gay adoption: A Minute With… U. of I. expert Sara R. Benson,” Jan. 5, 2016

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