Queer Family Planning (Legal FAQ)

Starting a family is one of the most exciting and important decisions in a couple’s life. From how to build your family to the financial costs associated with each option, queer family planning can feel like a daunting, nearly impossible task, especially when different states have different laws regarding adoptions, fostering, and health care coverage.

*Note: This article was originally published on Pride Pocket prior to merging with MyUmbrella*

Starting a family is one of the most exciting and important decisions in a couple’s life. From how to build your family to the financial costs associated with each option, queer family planning can feel like a daunting, nearly impossible task, especially when different states have different laws regarding adoptions, fostering, and health care coverage.

In order to put you on the right track toward achieving your goal of building a family, MyUmbrella is breaking down barriers, one article at a time. In this article, we’ll walk you through four common ways queer couples start families and discuss the basic legal implications of each.

Foster to Adopt 


There are two ways to adopt a child: through the state foster care system or through a private adoption agency, which can be either domestic or international. Each pathway contains its own legal and financial considerations. After a 2016 ruling against the Mississippi ban on same-sex adoption, same-sex couples can legally adopt a child domestically in all 50 states.

Every state foster care system has different laws, policies, and procedures for becoming a foster parent, and these processes can take 6 months to 2 years to complete. If you’re considering building your family through foster parenting, it is important to note that the primary goal of foster care is to reunite the child with his or her biological parents. This means that you would not be guaranteed the ability to adopt a child unless his or her legal plan changes. Many LGBTQ couples choose to enter the state foster care system in hopes of fostering a child, who may one day become a permanent part of the family.

Most state and local agencies do not require that you have a partner, be married, or even own a house to become a foster or adoptive parent. In many cases, all you need to prove is that you can provide a safe and loving home for a child while maintaining financial stability. For more information, check out Adopt US Kids, which also has specific resources for LGBTQ families.

Private Adoption


Depending on the agency, the wait time for a private adoption can take just as long as the state foster-care adoption system; however, it is significantly more expensive. The average cost of a private or international adoption can range from $10,000 to over $30,000.

Domestic adoptions often have long wait times, depending on the agency. LGBTQ couples are legally able to adopt domestically in all 50 states.

When considering international adoptions, certain countries do not approve the private adoption of their children to same-sex couples. If you are considering international adoption to grow your family, carefully research countries that allow gay adoption. Some countries that allow international LGBTQ adoption are: Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines.

An international adoption is similar to a state adoption in that the process requires you to conduct a home study and complete a dossier. However, it is more costly in that a private adoption will require you to travel to the country of the child’s origin and work with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to bring your adopted child back into the country. The length of travel is often 9-11 days, which can add up when traveling abroad.

Artificial Insemination


There are various methods of insemination. Two of the most common types used by queer women are in vitro insemination (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI). It’s best to discuss each type with a doctor before determining which is right for you.

Common legal struggles with artificial insemination revolve around insurance coverage and the costs associated with procedures. Insurance coverage varies by state and insurer. Some insurance carriers might cover diagnostic testing and doctors visits, but will not cover treatment cycles when there is no evidence of infertility–and some insurance providers do not consider LGBTQ couples “infertile,” so their coverage won’t extend to women in same-sex partnerships. For this reason, artificial insemination can become a costly procedure.

To find out how your health insurance policy works in your state, here are some common questions to ask your health insurance company.

  • What specific fertility treatments and/or medications do you cover?
  • How does the policy define infertility?
  • How does policyholder infertility need to be documented, and if so, how?
  • Do you cover fertility treatments for unmarried women and/or lesbians, and if so, which procedures?

Because of the out-of-pocket cost for procedures when they are not covered by insurance providers, some women opt to order online insemination kits and purchase sperm privately through a sperm bank.

Surrogacy 


Gestational surrogacy is when a woman carries a baby to term for a couple. In the case of many LGBTQ couples, a surrogate or gestational carrier is used to carry the pregnancy from conception to term. This is the most expensive means for starting a family, as costs can easily exceed over $100,000. Because of this high cost, some families must find financing from agencies that operate as a second mortgage loan, etc.

Because laws regarding surrogacy are so intricate, it is absolutely necessary to obtain legal representation throughout the surrogacy. A lawyer is needed to create a contract between the intended parents and the surrogate, often referred to as the surrogacy agreement. Additionally, legal representation is needed to obtain a court order declaring that the intended parents are the sole legal parent(s) and that the surrogate has no parental or legal rights or obligations. For more information, you can start by visiting SensibleSurrogacy.com, but be sure to consult a lawyer about the specific surrogacy laws in your state.

If all of the legal requirements and financial costs seem overwhelming, take a deep breath and remember: there are others who have done this before. “Don’t get overwhelmed with the adoption process because it is long,” says Jared Mansfield, who recently adopted a healthy baby through surrogacy with his husband. “Seek out a support system (e.g. intermediate family or trusted friends) when times get tough or you are stretched thin before and after the adoption process; building a network of experienced parents who can advise you is priceless, just like your little one.” We couldn’t agree more.


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