Much progress has been made over the past decade in protecting the rights of gay and lesbian couples. While same-sex marriage is protected by federal law (thus far), having children can be more complicated as many states do not give same-sex parents the same rights as heterosexual parents.
Without uniform laws in place, it’s advisable for Minnesota same-sex couples looking to start their own families to seek legal guidance to protect their parental rights. Each couple’s situation is different, and various options are available for building a family. Here are some of the primary issues to consider.
Options for family-building
It is estimated that 3 million LGBTQ individuals in the U.S. have had a child and that 6 million children have LGBTQ parents. The most common options for raising a child or having a baby are:
- Adoption: Same-sex couples are four times more likely than heterosexual couples to adopt a child and six times more likely to raise a foster child. An attorney can help with adoption proceedings.
- In vitro fertilization: In the IVF process, eggs and sperm are combined in a laboratory. When an embryo develops, it is transferred to the mother’s or a surrogate’s uterus. A lawyer can explain the challenges of using known or anonymous donors and craft the necessary donor agreements.
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): IUI is a less expensive option than IVF. Here, a sperm is injected into a woman’s reproductive tract using a syringe. This is often tried before IVF, but similar legal considerations result in using donated sperm.
- Surrogacy: Many same-sex couples turn to a surrogate to carry and deliver their child out of necessity (for gay men) or after undergoing failed IVF or IUI cycles. Different legal issues and procedures can arise depending upon the individual laws of each state and whether the parties are using a traditional or gestational surrogate.
Couples should also be aware of the costs. Adoptions can run $20,000 or more, while foster adoptions are usually much less. The cost of IVF averages $12,000 to $15,000 per cycle, and more than one cycle is sometimes needed. Insemination typically costs between $300 and $500 per cycle, and multiple cycles are common. Surrogacy can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 or more in Minnesota depending on the source of the surrogate, what components and procedures the parents select to undergo the process (e.g. whether an agency is used, whether the surrogate request a fee, whether IUI or IVF is used, etc.), and whether unexpected complication or delays occur in the process.
Potential legal and parenting hurdles for same-sex couples
Besides the emotional, physical and financial challenges for same-sex couples in starting a family, here are other things to consider:
- An LGBTQ parent not biologically related is not automatically considered the child’s legal guardian in many states.
- In some states, parents not recognized as legal guardians have no decision-making authority over a child’s health, education and welfare.
- Some insurers may exclude same-sex couples from coverage for fertility options.
- Employers in some states may not extend family leave policies over the birth or adoption of a child to same-sex parents.
These challenges illustrate that legal protections for same-sex parents lag far behind. That’s why working with an attorney specializing in all areas related to LGBTQ families is crucial. Your rights differ depending upon where you live as well as your circumstances. Your lawyer can craft a plan to protect your rights so you can focus on the joy of growing your family.