Securing parentage for LGBTQ+ families

There are so many different paths to parenthood, it’s hard to keep track! But, as the world of LGBTQ+ family-building rapidly evolves, state laws struggle to keep up. That’s why it’s so important to protect your family by establishing or securing parentage for nonbiological and/or non-gestational parents. 


Paths to securing parentage for LGBTQ+ families

Depending on where you live and your family circumstances, there are a few ways that you can secure legal parentage: 

Sometimes called an Acknowledgment of Parentage or a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage, a VAP is a form that parents sign acknowledging that they are a child’s parents and are willingly assuming the rights and responsibilities of parentage. VAPs are not new for different-sex couples, but only 11 states allow same-sex couples to sign them. Once a VAP takes effect, it is the legal equivalent of a court order. Federal law requires VAPs to be recognized across the United States.

We understand that it can confusing, and even insulting, to adopt your own children. The terminology (“stepparent,” “second parent”) might not feel right to you either. But what really matters is that these court-ordered adoption judgments are final and cannot be undone.

Some states have updated their parentage laws to reflect all the ways that we can become parents! This means that they’ve made the process of establishing or confirming legal parentage for LGBTQ+ families easier. In this process, once the court finds that you are a parent, you will receive an order that must be honored in all jurisdictions across the United States.

Why isn’t a birth or marriage certificate enough for LGBTQ+ parents?

It’s easy to assume that because your name is on the birth certificate, you’ve established legal parentage already. However, being listed on a birth certificate alone does not conclusively establish parentage. It is evidence of a parent-child relationship, but it does not take the place of one of the other pathways to establishing or confirming parentage. You might also assume that your relationship to your child is protected because you’re legally married to your child’s gestational or biological parent. While that might mean you’re recognized in your home state as a parent, obtaining a court order or judgment provides additional security.

Given the patchwork of parentage laws across the U.S. and the bias and discrimination LGBTQ+ families still face, many families choose to obtain a court judgment confirming parentage, which must be recognized across state lines. 

Securing parentage in your state

In most states, confirming or establishing parental rights through adoption usually entails submitting a petition for adoption that includes:

  • Background checks
  • Supporting documentation
  • Home studies or references
  • A filing fee, and
  • A court hearing

Some states have simplified the processes for families who used assisted reproduction, and still others offer a streamlined process called confirmatory adoption.