US Supreme Court Upholds Adoption Rights

On March 7, 2016, the US Supreme Court announced the outcome of the case of V.L. vs. E.L. – in this case, the court upheld one of the women’s adoption rights to the three children born to her same-sex partner during their relationship. This opinion, which addresses jurisdiction, credit, and full faith issues, likely provides relief to adoptive parents, proving their parental rights are not to be reduced within a court of law.

The two women in the case – E.L. and V.L. – were involved in a 16-year relationship that ended in 2011. During the 16 years they spent together, the couple lived in Alabama and used assisted reproductive technology in order to give birth to three children, one in 2002 and twins in 2004. The couple raised all three children together and while living in Georgia, they took advantage of the looser state laws to have V.L. legally adopt the three children while the biological mother, E.L., also maintained her rights.

While the women lived and raised children together, they never married or engaged in a civil union. In 2011, after moving back to Alabama, the couple separated and V.L. moved out of the family home. At that time, she petitioned the court, alleging that E.L. was denying her access to the children, which interfered with her parental rights as the children’s adoptive parent. V.L. asked the court to uphold the adoption rights from the state of Georgia, so that she could continue to be involved in the children’s lives.

In response, E.L. argued that the adoption from Georgia should not be recognized in Alabama, which would give V.L. no parental rights to the three children whatsoever. When the decision went to the Supreme Court, the court decided that the Alabama court had to uphold the rights established in the adoption completed in Georgia and that the non-biological adoptive parent would maintain her parental rights to the three children in the case. Additionally, V.L. had the right to pursue parenting time and joint custody.

While this case was focused mostly on jurisdictional analysis, it was also an important ruling for legal adoption to be upheld and honored by the court across state lines, regardless of if the couple is heterosexual or homosexual. For many adoptive parents and families with adopted children, this was an important ruling to establish that families can are bonded by love and care and not biological blood lines.

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