Same Sex Adoption in North Carolina

Aug 4, 2010

North Carolina does not recognize same sex marriage.  But, does that mean that same sex couple cannot adopt children?  The short answer is that no one really knows. 

The most recent North Carolina case on the subject does not provide us with much of an answer. In that case, a Durham County judge allowed one partner of a same sex couple to adopt the biological child of the other partner.  The couple later split up.  Then the biological mother tried to undo the adoption to keep the child away from her former partner, the same person that she had previously helped adopt her child.

Ironically, the biological mother challenged the adoption on the ground that same sex adoption was not valid in North Carolina.  (There is no mention of whether she appreciated the irony).

The Court of Appeals was in a perfect position to decide whether North Carolina allows same sex couples to adopt children.  But, they punted.  Instead of deciding that issue, the Court went to great lengths to explain why the case was not about same sex adoption. 

Nonetheless, they held that that the adoption was valid.  So, for now, the second highest court in North Carolina has given its tacit approval to same sex adoption in North Carolina. 

However, the North Carolina Supreme Court has decided to review the Court of Appeals’ decision.  That decision is expected by the end of the year.  So, North Carolina’s position on same sex adoption may not be settled. 

As a further complication, the word among attorneys statewide is that some judges in some counties will approve same sex adoptions, and some will not.  These judges are interpreting the adoption statues differently.  So, whether a same sex couple gets to adopt a child may currently depend on what county they live in and which judge is hearing their case. 

All of this puts the onus on the Supreme Court to settle the issue for same sex couples and judges across the state.  If you are in a same sex relationship and want to adopt a child in North Carolina, consult a family law attorney to help you navigate this unsettled process. 

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