While adoption traditionally requires the termination of a biological parent's legal rights in order to vest them in an adoptive parent, some states permit second parent adoptions -- where a person adopts a child without terminating the biological parent's rights. This has been used by same-sex couples who want to be both recognized as the parents of a child.
One Georgia court allowed a woman to enter into a second parent adoption of her partner's three children in 2007, even though the Georgia statute required a marriage between the biological parent and the prospective adoptive parent for a second parent adoption. The couple was not married because marriage was not a legal option for them at the time.
Recently, the couple ended their relationship and the adoptive mother petitioned the Alabama courts for her traditional parental rights, such as visitation with the child. While the Alabama lower courts allowed it, on appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court refused to recognize the Georgia adoption, thereby denying visitation rights.
The adoptive mother now has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision because the U.S. Constitution requires states to recognize each other's court judgments under the Full Faith and Credit Clause. However, a narrow exception to the Full Faith and Credit Clause exists: a court need not grant Full Faith and Credit to a judgment issued by a sister state court that lacked jurisdiction.
The Alabama Supreme Court has determined that the Georgia court lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it approved a second parent adoption to an unmarried couple when the Georgia statute required a marriage for such purposes. Thus, the issue is more a jurisdictional one, but in the context of same-sex adoption.
If review of the case is granted, the case will be added to the U.S. Supreme Court's docket. The case is E.L. v. V.L., 2015 WL 5511249 (Ala. 2015).