Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

Utah looks to stop adoptions by married same-sex couples

Adoption may mean different things to each party involved. For some, it may simply mean bringing a child into their home to make their family complete. Others see adoption as a chance to connect people who may one day grow to become families. For the children, it is often a chance to love and be loved by parents they might not have had otherwise. As Utah has found out over the past several months, even a system full of hope and love can be used to crush the dreams of many, from fathers seeking to raise their children to same-sex couples seeking to make their family whole.

Utah's Office of the Attorney General has filed paperwork asking the Utah Supreme Court to block the orders of several lower court judges granting adoptions to married same-sex couples. Many of the adoption cases being halted are second-parent adoptions by couples who were married during the 17 days in which same-sex marriage was legal in Utah. The issue came to a head when the Department of Health refused to alter the birth record of an adopted child in accordance with a judge's ruling.

An adopted child is granted the same rights as a naturally born child. These rights not only allow the child to take an inheritance under state law, but also enable the child's parents to provide health insurance and make medical decision on the child's behalf. A child in such an adoption arrangement could find himself or herself back in the foster care system in the event of their adopted parent's death, even though there is another loving parent eager to care for them.

As similar cases continue to work their way through the state and federal legal systems, Utah is in a state of pause. It will likely be months before the fate of Utah's marriage and adoption laws are fleshed out and ruled upon. It is understandable for one to be confused by these laws, so it may be in an couple's best interests to speak with a family law attorney to better understand any adoption issues they may face.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah asks appeals court to block judge's orders in adoption cases," Brooke Adams, April 9, 2014

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