The “Wild West” of Same Sex Adoptions in Missouri

Same Sex Adoption

Ask a client I’ll call “Jennifer,” and she’ll tell you that Missouri’s legal stance on same-sex relationships remains hopelessly muddled. As homosexual woman married to her long-time partner in Massachusetts, Jennifer and her partner went through a circuitousness and confusing legal maze when navigating current Missouri adoption laws to adopt one another’s children from previous relationships. They sought to engage in what is known as a ‘stepparent adoption’ or ‘second-parent’ adoption. This involves each adopting the other’s child so that they are recognized legally as the parent of both.

They were surprised to find that although there are no specific laws banning Missouri LGBT adoption, technically they cannot engage in stepparent adoptions because they cannot be stepparents. This is because the State of Missouri does not recognize their marriage. These conflicting policies make for a Wild West of an adoption situation in the state. It essentially becomes the individual decisions of judges to decide each case, and inconsistency is the name of the game. Couples residing in more conservative counties often have to move their adoption proceedings to a county where judges had proven more tolerant of LGBT adoptions in a second-parent vein.

The citizens of Missouri are divided on the complex issue. On the one hand, most support the adoption of children by individual members of the LGBT community, often reasoning that otherwise orphans might have no home at all. When children with special needs are at issue this support increases. However, many also see adoptions by same-sex couples to be a wedge towards marriage equality, and there is still strong opposition to re-defining marriage to include same-sex couples. The result is the confusing and inconsistent situation.

Adoptions are too important to be subjected to the inconsistencies of a Wild West situation.  It is clear that the laws regarding marriage and adoptions in Missouri need to be changed to clarify everyone’s rights and positions.

Tana Benner
Tana Benner is an adoption attorney with Columbia Family Law Group. Her practice is focused in the area of family law and she has particular interests in adoption and helping children and victims of domestic violence.