Adam Unikowsky and Cathy Sakimura | The National Law Journal | December 21, 2015
Adoptions matter. Adoption is the primary legal mechanism that allows a nonbiological parent to exercise all of the rights of parenthood. Adoptions protect both adoptive parents and adoptees in many ways: They confer the legal right on adoptive parents to enroll their children in school, make medical decisions, initiate legal action, and make innumerable other decisions to support their children’s welfare. Adoptions also protect the rights of adopted children in the event of the adoptive parent’s death, by ensuring that the child will inherit, and receive Social Security or workers’ compensation or survivor benefits.
Without an adoption, a nonbiological parent is often a legal stranger to a child. With an adoption, the nonbiological parent is treated exactly like a biological parent under the law.
Adoptions have long had particular importance in uniting same-sex couples to their children. Long before the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex couples obtained adoption judgments to ensure that both parents would have legally recognized parental rights. In many cases, one member of the couple would become a parent (either biologically or through adoption), and then the other member of the couple would adopt the child as well, while ensuring that the original parent retained his or her parental rights. Many thousands of adoptions of this nature have been granted nationwide, and they have been a critical tool in uniting both members of the couple to their children.