Missouri’s legal stance on same-sex relationships remains hopelessly muddled. In Missouri it is not illegal to have sexual relations with someone of the same sex, but same-sex marriage is not recognized. Homosexuals have no legal barriers to adoption as individuals, but this complicates matters when it comes to couples seeking to adopt to form families. Since same-sex marriages don’t exist in Missouri, there is no way to adopt children as a couple when the couple in question is same-sex.
Jennifer knows all this because she and her partner, Lisa, went through a circuitousness and confusing legal maze when navigating current Missouri adoption laws to become the legal parent of each other’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.
A consultation with a Missouri adoption attorney was an education: There are no specific laws banning Missouri LGBT adoption, but technically they cannot engage in stepparent adoptions because they cannot be stepparents, since they cannot legally marry. These conflicting policies make for a Wild West of an adoption situation in the state. It essentially becomes the discretion of judges to decide each case, and inconsistency is the name of the game. A judge in one county may allow the second-parent adoptions, while a judge a few miles away might consistently rule against them.
Jennifer and Lisa’s strategy was to move their adoption proceedings to a county where judges had proven more tolerant of LGBT adoptions in a second-parent vein. By shifting their efforts to a more liberal county, they received a positive reception in the courts and were able to proceed with their adoption of each other’s children.
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 Missouri currently enjoys.
Jennifer and Lisa have no regrets, but they do think the lengths they had to go to in order to become parents to children they consider to be their own is ridiculous, and that the laws regarding marriage and adoptions in Missouri need to be changed to clarify everyone’s rights and positions. The adoption attorneys at Columbia Family Law Group have successfully help same sex couples adopt children as co-parents. If you are interested in pursuing a second parent adoption, contact Columbia Family Law Group to assist you and advise you of your rights.