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Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court Ruling Nullifying Lesbian Adoption

Lesbian_family.jpgIn a victory for gay and lesbian parents, the 5th District Court of Appeal reinstated a lesbian’s parental rights regarding the child she had helped raise with her now former partner. The court’s ruling stated that the child’s biological mother could not invoke the authority of the court system to approve the other woman’s adoption of her son and then use those same courts to take those parental rights away simply because the women’s relationship ended.

The case centered upon the son of two lesbian women, identified in court records only as “C.P.” and “G.P.”, who were in a committed relationship from 2005 to 2012. In 2007, C.P. conceived and gave birth to a son. G.P. was present at the boy’s birth and was designated as a parent on all of the child’s medical and school documents. G.P. took on an equal role to C.P. in parenting the child for the first four years of his life.

In January 2012, G.P. legally adopted the boy. The couple had filed their request as a “step-parent adoption.” The couple then obtained an amended birth certificate naming both women as the child’s parents.

A short time later, the couple split but continued to care jointly for the child. Late in 2012, however, the biological mother sought to invalidate the adoption, which would extinguish all of G.P.’s legal rights regarding the boy. The trial court decided that it never had the legal authority to grant the adoption in the first place. G.P. was not a step-parent and was not seeking to adopt following the termination of the biological mother’s rights, so the judgment granting the adoption was void, the court decided.

G.P. appealed, and the appeals court sided with her. The court rejected the notion that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the case because Florida law gives the state’s trial courts authority over all adoption matters.

The court also decided that the women’s status did not automatically make the adoption void. Although the women were unmarried adults, and the original adoption case was mistakenly described as a step-parent adoption, this did not require voiding the adoption. “These are pleading and procedural deficiencies, not jurisdictional defects. Such deficiencies do not automatically … void the judgment,” the court explained.

One significant factor working against the biological mother, which the appeals court clearly noted, was her role in the entire process. She had joined her partner in asking the court to grant her then-partner the right to adopt her child. Once her relationship with G.P. ended, she then used those same courts to strip those same parental rights back away from the woman. The court pointed out that Florida law has long used the legal doctrine of estoppel to prevent a person who originally sought an adoption from later asking the courts to void that adoption. It “would be unconscionable to allow” the biological mother to utilize the courts to establish a legal parent-child relationship between her partner and her son and then reverse course and seek to employ the courts “to destroy that same relationship because her relationship with G.P. has ended.”

As the law pertaining to gay and lesbian parents continues to change, it is more important than ever to secure knowledgeable legal counsel for your adoption, parental rights, and child custody matters. Contact the experienced South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys can help you take the steps you need to protect your family and your role in it.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Denies Lesbian Couple’s Request to Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 15, 2014
In Unique Case, Daytona Court Says Both Lesbian Moms Have Parental Rights, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 5, 2012
Photo credit: Emily Walker at Wikimedia Commons.