We had the pleasure of meeting with Radoyka “Roe” Minaya, Family Law Attorney of Minaya Law Offices on The Couples Corner recently and discussing parental rights within the LGBT community. As a reminder, all the information Roe provided on The Couples Corner is specific to Florida state laws and if you have a specific question it’s always best to consult a Family Law Attorney in the state you reside.
Although, marriage equality has been federal law since 2015, Florida has taken a little while to catch up. While same-sex couples who married in other states had their marriage recognized in the state Florida, couples with children who did not do a second or step-parent adoption in their home state faced difficulties if they later chose to divorce as they may not be considered a legal parent.
Even issuing proper birth certificates is something Florida continues to struggle with as the state catches up to federal law. New birth certificates were to be issued that would say “Parent 1” “Parent 2” “Mother” “Father” or “Other Parent” but because these new birth certificates were not issued, the non-birth parents were not allowed to be listed on the birth certificate up until mid-2016. Around May/June of this year, same sex parents were allowed to list their name under the opposite sex parent line. Same sex couple’s parental right still are a bit unclear in the state of Florida. Roe suggests that anyone relocating to Florida immediately contact an attorney to learn what might be needed in order to maintain parental rights of their children.
Most couples will need to do something extra, although it doesn’t always mean that the couple will need to do a second parent or step-parent adoption; there are other shorter and less costly options for parents to explore, due in large part to the inconsistency in Florida law.
One suggestion Roe has for parents or couples who are planning to relocate to Florida is to contact an attorney prior to doing anything, in order to make sure they’re protected regarding any decisions they make surrounding their parental rights and their family. It’s difficult to navigate current LGBTQ laws and rights and it’s hard to predict what future effects will be felt for parents in this community.
If a same sex couple is planning on having a child, Roe recommends that, the couple get married. While everyone should have the right to have a child, regardless of marital status, Roe feels that as things are sorted out, children born of a legal marriage will most likely be treated that same as any other child. Another recommendation she makes is to use a sperm bank or fertility clinic for an anonymous donor, as these organizations have very strict rules and regulations regarding future contact with children further protecting rights of parents. If using a known donor, Roe recommends speaking with attorney and foregoing trying to navigate the legal process on your own. It may be tempting to find a cheaper route in the beginning but Roe warns shirking costs in the beginning can result in great costs, both financial and emotional, in the long run.
The steps a couple would take in a second parent adoption, when the couple is not married, are a background check, a home study, an attorney to assist in the process, and a final judgement on the adoption. This can be distressing to some parents who may feel that they brought this child into the relationship and should not have to have a decision made on whether or not they can adopt their child.
If you want to know about your rights as an LGBTQ parent in Florida, Roe can be reached at minayalaw.com and will provide a free consultation.