For families that do not fit the typical mold of a married opposite-gender couple and their biological children, second-parent adoption could be a way to give them legal protections, and certify their parental relationships in the eyes of the law. Thanks to a 2014 federal court decision, second-parent adoptions are permitted and recognized in North Carolina, which benefits unmarried couples, particularly LGBT couples.

What is second-parent adoption?

In second-parent adoption, the child’s biological or “first” parent is joined by a “second” parent, who is granted many of the same rights as the first parent. Meanwhile, the first parent retains their rights. This form of adoption is especially relevant when it comes to child custody and visitation rights. If you are not a child’s biological or adoptive parent, you may not be granted custody or visitation time by the court, even if you have helped raise the child and consider yourself to be their parent.

Second-parent adoption can be especially important for LGBT couples that used in vitro fertilization or other means to conceive a child. Typically, this means that one member of the couple is the child’s biological parent and automatically is granted parental rights. If you and your co-parent are not married and your relationship ends, unless you have already used second-parent adoption to become your child’s legal parent, your ex could prevent you from seeing your child again.

Find out more about second-parent adoption

Currently, second-parent adoptions are allowed in North Carolina, but family law is often in flux. To establish your rights as a parent now and long-term, you should consult a family law attorney about your options.