Alabama Supreme Court invalidates same-sex Georgia adoption

| Oct 9, 2015 | Family Law |

The Supreme Court of Alabama made headlines a few weeks ago after handing down a highly controversial decision in E.L. v. V.L., a case that originated here in Georgia with the adoption of three children by a woman in a same-sex relationship.

According to the facts of the case, two women, identified as E.L. and V.L. in court documents, were longtime partners who had three children after E.L. underwent artificial insemination. In 2007, V.L., with the consent and full participation of E.L., successfully adopted the three children in Georgia.

The couple later moved back to Alabama and eventually ended their relationship. When E.L., the biological mother, refused to allow V.L. to see the three children, V.L. went to court to seek visitation rights.

After some back and forth, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ultimately granted V.L. visitation rights. However, the matter then came before the Alabama Supreme Court, which reversed the appellate court in a recent 7-1 decision.

Here, the court found that Alabama courts were not required to give legal recognition to the adoption, as the court in Georgia that originally granted the adoption failed to properly interpret and apply its own state’s law.

Specifically, it found that Georgia law declares that non-spouses cannot adopt absent a termination of the parental rights of a biological parent and there was no evidence to suggest that E.L. had relinquished her parental rights in any form.

As to whether it was reviewing the merits of the decision made by the court in Georgia, something expressly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, the court reasoned that it wasn’t actually doing this as the Georgia court was not even permitted to grant the adoption in the first place.

“[T]he Georgia court was not empowered to enter the Georgia judgment declaring V.L. to be an adoptive parent of the children. … The Georgia judgment is accordingly void, and the full faith and credit clause does not require the courts of Alabama to recognize that judgment,” reads the opinion.

It remains to be seen what steps V.L. will take in the aftermath of this decision. However, it is worth noting that her attorney did not rule out the possibility of appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Stay tuned for updates.

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