Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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Same-sex family law: 50 years ago gay couples adopted each other

Years ago, marriage was a distant dream of gay couples nationwide, including in Massachusetts. While same\-sex divorce is a current problem for many, as far back as the 1970s, same-sex family law and gay marriages were not even considered. However, creative ways were found to obtain legal protection and benefits as next-of-kin.

As for heterosexual couples, the insecurities of retirement -- both emotional and financial -- had to be addressed. For some same-sex couples, the solution was adoption. They adopted each other as mother and daughter or father and son. Because a parent-child bond is legally irrevocable in the U.S., these couples' commitments provided next-of-kin rights that even trumped those of married couples. These rights related to taxes and estates, and they also provided next-of-kin rights for hospital visitation and more that were denied to gay couples then.

In an adoption, a parent and child are cemented for life. However, when same-sex marriages were legalized nationwide in 2015, these couples were prevented from getting married. A parent is not allowed to marry his or her child. Adoptions had to be annulled, and this was a complicated process that proved successful for some and unsuccessful for others.

A gay couple who completed the adoption process in 2000 after being together for 30 years said their adoption was timed perfectly. One partner had heart surgery in 2002, and the other partner was allowed to visit him as next-of-kin. After their attorney informed them in 2015 that the marriage was out of the question because adoption was permanent, they consulted with another attorney who was experienced in same-sex family law.

A petition to vacate the adoption was filed, and on May 14, 2015, the attorney convinced the judge that their adoption was their best option at the time. Within 25 minutes, the adoption was annulled. Same-sex couples in Massachusetts who are facing similar dilemmas may seek the assistance of a seasoned same-sex family law attorney.

Source: narrative.ly, "Before Marriage Was an Option, These Gay Couples Adopted Each Other", C. Brian Smith, Sept. 24, 2016

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