The unfortunate truth is that current Florida law is not conducive to recognizing the relationships that develop in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender families. However, there are steps that Florida and Tampa Bay LGBT parents can take to boost the recognition of their parental rights.
If LGBT parents are committed to raising a child together and recognizing each parent’s rights, I highly recommend that partners consider adopting each other’s children. This helps form an unbreakable legal bond between the children and each partner. Though the law is unsettled in this area, the judges in Hillsborough County (including Tampa) are granting adoptions by LGBT partners. What’s more, an adoption attorney located in Hillsborough County (such as myself) can help Florida parents come before Hillsborough County judges no matter where in Florida the parents live.
Co-parenting agreements can be great evidence that LGBT partners intend to parent children together. It can boost the argument that “psychological parenting,” or the formation of a parent-like relationship between a child and a non-legal parent has occurred, and make it or more likely that parental rights will be recognized by Florida’s legal system.
Hyphenated or Unified Last Names
A hyphenated or unified last name can go a long way in demonstrating to the Florida legal system that partners intended to raise children together. For example, if partner 1 is named Jones, and partner 2 is named Smith, it would be helpful to have all partners and children’s last names hyphenated or unified, so that everyone has a last name of Jones-Smith, Smith-Jones, Smones, Jith, etc. Florida has laws to aid in legal name changes which can help in this process.