Ruling from divided court finds against adoption request
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Supreme Court justices split in an opinion released Wednesday that rejected an appeal by a man and his female domestic partner to adopt his biological son.
The court ruled 3-2 against the couple in the case of the 12-year-old identified as J.W. The decision upheld a judge’s ruling that said the law doesn’t authorize such an adoption under such circumstances unless the father surrenders his parental rights.
Two dissenting judges said that the law does allow the adoption, and that a judge could excuse the surrender of the father’s parental rights “because doing so would be in J.W.’s best interest.”
The law allows adoption for married couples; an unmarried adult; the unmarried parent of the adoptee; and several situations involving a married person without that person’s spouse.
The three-judge majority noted that the Legislature “has been willing to reexamine the adoption statutes on a number of occasions to address asserted shortcomings.”
Those include amending the law to allow a married person to adopt another adult with a spouse’s consent; and addressing inheritance rights in a situation where the adopted person dies before the final adoption decree is issued.
In J.W.’s case, the couple have lived together since 2008 and share two biological children but have never married. The father has primary responsibility of J.W.; the parental rights of the boy’s mother were terminated in 2017.
The dissenting justices noted the couple’s petition attempted to ensure the father’s parental rights remain intact. They disagreed that a previous court decision that found two unmarried adults who live in separate households couldn’t adopt would apply to J.W.’s case.