Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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What should same-sex spouses consider when starting a family?

While the legal wheels related to lesbian and gay equality are slowly turning, many same-sex couples in Massachusetts wish to start a family by ways of conception rather than adoption. In addition to adopting the child of another couple, same-sex spouses have other options available. Lesbian couples typically have to find a sperm donor -- either by personally finding a donor or by using a bank where the sperm of anonymous donors are kept. One spouse may become pregnant and give birth to the baby while, to protect her legal rights as a parent, the other spouse may adopt the child as a second parent or stepparent.

In a similar way, a gay male couple may find a woman who is willing to act as a surrogate. Then, upon the birth of the child, they will go through an adoption process to legalize their parenthood. In Massachusetts, both spouses can legally adopt the child through joint adoption. As legal parents, both spouses will have certain rights, such as providing a home, and deciding about matters such as education and health. As with heterosexual parents, same-sex parents must provide financial support to their children.

To protect the parental rights of both parties in a same-sex marriage, legalizing through adoption is recommended. Couples may also benefit from drawing up a parenting agreement to confirm that both spouses will be regarded as legal parents of the child. In the unfortunate event of a split, lengthy and costly litigation to address child custody and visitation can be avoided.

One of the most important decisions in a gay or lesbian person's life could be regarding raising a child. The guidance of a family law attorney who is experienced in the matters of same-sex laws in Massachusetts could be invaluable. Ensuring that both same-sex spouses have a full understanding of the legalities and implications of their decision before going down that route could be beneficial and provide peace of mind.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Issues for Gay and Lesbian Adoption", , Sept. 26, 2014

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