For many same-sex couples, the 2015 Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage was the first step in full recognition of their families. In 2016, a federal judge lifted a ban on adoption by same-sex couples in Mississippi.

Same-sex couples are changing the portrait of American families.

Second-parent adoption allows a same-sex parent to adopt their partner’s child without terminating the first parent’s legal rights. This way, the child has the rights, benefits and support of having two legal parents.

The number of children growing up with same-sex parents is on the rise. According to United States Census data for the state of Illinois, the state has over 34,000 same-sex couples in long-term relationships, and 21 percent of these couples are raising children.

Benefits of second-parent adoption

There are many reasons someone would want to adopt their same-sex partner’s child. The non-biological parent will only have parental rights and responsibilities if there is a legal, familial relationship. The same is true even if that parent has been actively raising the child since birth.

Second-parent adoption is vital if one parent dies or becomes incapacitated. Without a legal parental relationship, the child may be removed from the care of the nonlegal parents, become a ward of the state or be placed with the child’s blood relatives, regardless of the child’s relationship with them.

Through the adoption, the second parent has the legal right to access the child’s medical records and, in an emergency, the parent can consent to medical treatment or visit the child in the hospital.

Children who are adopted have the legal rights to parental health insurance benefits and can be listed as beneficiaries on insurance policies. Additionally, if something were to happen to one of the legal parents, the children would qualify for Social Security benefits.

In a divorce context, when both parents are recognized as legal parents, child custody decisions will be made in the same way as heterosexual couples. Both parents will have equal rights in a child custody case.

Second-parent adoption can provide peace of mind and protection of parental rights.