Over 8 million people in the United States identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and around 3 million of those adults have had at least one child. Same-sex couples (including gay men) raising children are four times more likely than their different-sex counterparts to adopt a child, but for gay men, the process isn't always easy. If you are keen to adopt a child, learn more about some of the legal issues gay men face, and find out what you need to do to navigate the system.
How children can come into gay men's lives
Gay men can bring children into their lives in several ways. In some cases, one of the men will have a biological child from a different-sex relationship. Other times, one man will use a surrogate mother to carry a child born from his sperm and a donor egg, and the other father will become a legal parent through second-parent adoption. Otherwise, gay men will sometimes adopt a child that neither man has any biological connection with.
When it comes to adoption, gay men often tackle some of the most vulnerable children in society. For example, a 2011 report by the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute found that ten percent of gay and lesbian parents adopted children older than 6, an age group that is often difficult to adopt. More than 60 percent of these parents also adopted across races. These minority groups often stay in the foster system longer than others.
The issues gay men face
Gay men face several barriers when it comes to adopting children. Some agencies continue to discriminate against gay couples, and some adoption professionals remain ambivalent to the benefits of gay parenting. Social stigma remains a challenge across the United States, and many schools struggle to support gay parents.
Lesbians generally have more parenting options than gay men, and the cost of surrogacy is often prohibitive for gay men. According to the National Association of Social Workers, the average cost of surrogacy is between $100,000 and $150,000. As an alternative, co-parenting presents many legal and emotional challenges.
That aside, the biggest challenge gay men face is often the state legal system. While the United States continues to go through a significant period of reform in gay rights, state laws vary about the rights of gay men to adopt children.
Some states allow both men in a same-sex relationship to jointly adopt a child. These states generally allow adoption through agencies. That aside, other states do not yet allow joint or second-parent adoption in same-sex relationships. As such, before you embark on any plan to adopt children, you should check the laws where you live.
Unfortunately, even if state law does not prohibit gay men from adopting children, some judges will use the issue to rule a prospective adoptive parent is unfit.
Parenting agreements as an alternative to adoption
Where state law does not allow gay men to adopt children, a parenting agreement can give a non-biological parent some rights. You should draw up a parenting agreement to show you both consider yourselves parents of the child, and you intend to live your life on that basis.
You can also use the agreement to show you understand the responsibilities you hold, and you can also outline what you want to happen if the relationship ends. A break-up is often the most challenging issue for a non-biological parent, as the law will not recognize him if the other person is the biological father.
A parenting agreement can also cover financial issues, education, housing and any other matter related to the children. The outcomes of custody battles vary considerably, but these agreements can afford non-biological parents some legal protection.
A trained family law attorney can help you navigate the legal system in your state. While United States law is changing, many gay men still need the help of a family law attorney to get the outcome they want.