Prior to 2000, the same-sex partner of the biological mother of a child was not allowed by Connecticut law to adopt the child and become the legal co-parent. In those days, the Probate Court would only allow such an adoption if the biological mother terminated her parental rights to her own child! I know it sounds ridiculous but the way the statutes were written at the time, well, let’s just say there were some serious problems.
Along came Anne and Malinda, two women in a committed relationship of more than 10 years who had a child together via artificial insemination in 1992. They petitioned the Probate Court in 1993 to name Malinda (the non-biological mother) a legal co-parent without terminating the parental rights of Anne (the biological mother) but the petition was denied.
The couple appealed the Probate Court’s decision in Superior Court and the judge determined that the proposed adoption would be in the baby’s best interest. In the case, known as In Re Baby Z, the court also concluded that 1) the application for the adoption of Baby Z. did not fall within any of the three categories of adoptions (statutory parent, stepparent or blood relative adoptions) that were permitted by Connecticut statutes; 2) that our statutes gave the Adoption Review Board the authority to waive the requirement under the statute that only a statutory parent may give a child in adoption to an adult who is neither the spouse of the child’s sole legal parent nor the child’s blood relative and 3) that because stepparent adoptions pursuant to our statutes proceed without disturbing the parental rights of the child’s sole legal parent, that, upon the Adoption Review Board’s granting of a waiver of the statutory parent requirement the proposed adoption could proceed without terminating Anne’s parental rights.
The case was remanded to the Probate Court with direction to submit an application to the Adoption Review Board for a waiver of the statutory parent requirement of Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-724 (a) (1), and then to grant the proposed adoption upon receipt of a waiver. The waiver was subsequently denied.
A total of 3 appeals were filed. I won’t get into the specifics of those appeals here other than to address the outcome of the following:
In the infamous In Re the Adoption of Baby Z case (1999), the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled, in brief summary, that based on a plain-language reading of the adoption statutes and their legislative history, the Adoption Review Board could waive the placement requirement but not the statutory parent requirement. In the Baby Z case there was no statutory parent and the proposed adoption did not fit the other specifically authorized adoption situations, so the probate court had no authority to grant an adoption. The majority acknowledged that the best interest of Baby Z would be served by an adoption but said that it was up to the legislature to establish the limitations on who can be adopted and in what circumstances. The historic opinion for that case is quite lengthy but well worth a read.
Subsequent to that decision, the Connecticut legislature passed Public Act No. 00-228, An Act Concerning The Best Interest Of Children In Adoption Matters (2000) which reads, in pertinent part,
“Subject to the approval of the Court of Probate as provided in section 45a-727, as amended by this act, any parent of a minor child may agree in writing with one other person who shares parental responsibility for the child with such parent that the other person shall adopt or join in the adoption of the child, if the parental rights, if any, of any other person other than the parties to such agreement have been terminated.”
And that’s how co-parent adoption came about in Connecticut.
The End. (Well, not really).
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copyright 2012 Irene C. Olszewski, Esq.