Second-parent adoption is the adoption of a child by a second parent in the home who is not married to the legal parent of the child. A second-parent adoption allows a second parent to adopt their partner’s child without the “first parent” losing any parental rights. Adoptive parents usually have the same rights as biological parents in custody and visitation matters in States that allow second-parent adoption.
Stepparent adoption is the legal adoption of a child by the spouse of the child's birth parent. Please check with your local family court system to obtain the proper documents required to adopt, as well as the most up-to-date information on stepparent adoption in your jurisdiction.
In this section, you will find information about second-parent adoptions and resources regarding stepparent adoption.
Foster and Adoption Laws: Second/Stepparent
Movement Advancement Project (2020)
Provides a map indicating which States authorize second-parent adoption.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 478KB)
Legal Recognition of LGBT Families (PDF - 269 KB)
National Center for Lesbian Rights (2019)
Defines a legal parent, second-parent adoption, and its availability in various States. The factsheet also provides information about parenting agreements and voluntary acknowledgements of parenting.
Same-Sex Spouses Turn to Adoption to Protect Parental Rights
Features a same-sex married couple's journey of second-parent adoption to ensure both of their parental rights are legally protected.
Human Rights Campaign (2020)
Gives information on State laws allowing second-parent adoption.
What’s a Second Parent Adoption?
Lists the reasons to pursue a second-parent adoption, describes the court process, defines an adoption home study, and explains what to do if a second-parent adoption is not available in your State.
9 Things to Know When Adopting Your Stepchild
Provides guidance to parents considering adopting their stepchildren, including information on the legal process, fees, consent waivers, and more.
Discusses the unique process of adopting stepchildren, including gaining consent from a birth parent, instances were adoptions can proceed without consent, and stepparent adoption for same-sex couples.
Stepparent Adoption FAQ's
Answers frequently asked questions surrounding stepparent adoption, including questions on the legal requirements, rights of the birth parents, and eligibility of same-sex-couple stepparents.
Stepparent Adoption: How to Start the Process
Offers information on the process to adopt a stepchild, including the laws, financial costs, and documents required.
Outlines information on stepparent adoption laws, birth parent consent, and termination of parental rights.
Unique Issues With Stepparent Adoption
Creating a Family
Examines unique challenges that families formed through stepparent adoption may face, including blending families, talking about birth parents with stepchildren, maintaining contact with birth parents and/or birth grandparents, and stepparents navigating their feelings about a stepchild’s birth parents.