Articles Tagged with adoption

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Joshua Chilton, Legal Assistant

The United States, as a whole, has only allowed same-sex marriage for just over two and a half years. It is law that same-sex couples have the right to marry in the United States of America, but there are some who still struggle with the question of what exactly that entails. Certainly, same-sex couples can be married now, but are they afforded the same rights as heteronormative marriages? My answer is yes; if same-sex couples can legally marry, they should not have some cheap imitation of it. The law should give them the equal rights to their heteronormative counterparts, including hospital visitation, joint taxes, inheritance, and all other areas of the law. However, there are those who see same-sex marriages as inherently different from heteronormative marriages, and as such, believe they should not be treated the same or offered the same services. One such service, which is still heavily fought over, is the adoption of children.

Our neighboring state, Georgia, has recently had this argument enflamed in the form of Senate Bill 130. The bill would have been a major update to the state’s adoption laws, of which had not been updated in such a manner in 27 years. The bill stalled, neither passing or failing, at the end of last year after a provision was added by their state Senate Judiciary Committee which would allow private adoption agencies, including those that receive public funds, to refuse to place children in homes based on familial, cultural, or religious reasons.

Champions of LGBT+ advocacy argue the provision would allow the private agencies to discriminate against LGBT+ homes and cite any number differences between the children and the potential families. Sponsors of the amendment adversely claim that the added language in the bill would give agencies the power to find what they deem to homes more aligned in the interests of the children. It’s not hard to see both sides of this argument, as there is some truth to both sides. Certainly, agencies should consider the best interests of children, but it is also possible that such a provision could allow agencies to push their private agendas of what they believe families should be like, discriminating against not just LGBT+ families, but any family they do not want to place children with for any familial, cultural, or religious reason, rather than seeking out fit homes for children. A private agency could refuse to place a child in the home of divorcees, single parents, families of different ethnicities than a child, and families of different religions than a child even if the prospective families have the means and desire to care for a child.

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Jennifer A. Crissman, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group

            The name “Responsible Individuals List” may sound like an accolade to parents; however, this is a misnomer. For those unfortunate enough to find their family in the midst of an investigation of child abuse, neglect, and dependency the List is likely to be mentioned. It is important that anyone who finds themselves in this situation be aware of what the term means and the ramifications of being on this list.

The Responsible Individuals List and Consequences

            The actual list is comprised of the names of individuals who are found to be responsible for the abuse and serious neglect of a juvenile. The List was created by statute in 2006 in response to federal requirements under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The primary goal of the federal regulation was to create a child abuse registry that was accessible to certain authorized agencies which must determine the fitness of an individual to care for or adopt children.

In 2010, the NC Court of Appeals held that placement on the List impacts an individual’s Constitutionally protected liberty interest. In re W.B.M., 690 S.E.2d 41 (N.C. App. 2010). Placement on the List can prevent an individual from being able to care for children, whether it be through employment, fostering or adopting. Although the List can affect a person’s ability to care for children, the statutes do not address the length of time an individual is placed on the List. The statutes also do not provide for an expungement procedure after a specified period has expired.

The List and Caring for One’s Children

            Although placement on the List can prevent a person from adopting or fostering, the List does not necessarily prohibit an individual from caring for their child. There are currently no cases in North Carolina that address being added to the Responsible Individuals List and then being denied reunification with your children. Further, North Carolina statute, the North Carolina Administrative Code and the Department of Social Services Manuals only address using the Responsible Individuals List for employment purposes or foster/adoption/kinship placement determinations. Currently, it appears the impact of being placed on the Responsible Individuals List is limited to children who are not biologically your own.

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1.  What is the date of marriage?  Prior to October 2014, same-sex couples could not marry in North Carolina. But what date of marriage will North Carolina recognize if the same-sex couple was earlier married or entered into a civil union in some other state before October 2014?   The date of marriage is obviously critical in equitable distribution as marital property is created from the date of marriage to the date of separation.  The North Carolina legislature has not dealt with this important date of marriage issue (civil union date) where the couple married (created a civil union) in another state prior to October 2014.

a. Arguably, the date of marriage is the date of the marriage license and ceremony in a state that recognized same-sex marriage on the actual date of the marriage.  North Carolina should recognize that original marriage date because the couple could return to the state of the marriage and get a divorce.

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