In a legal heterosexual marriage, both parents are granted legal parental rights. That means that both parents are financially responsible for their children, able to make medical and legal decisions for them and in the event of divorce, legally entitled to seek custody and visitation. When it comes to same-sex marriages however, typically only one parent is guaranteed legal parental status.

Same-sex couples may be legally married in the state of New York. As a married couple, they are granted the same rights as a married heterosexual couple, with one glaring exception. If the couple chooses to have a child it is the biological parent, the one who physically bore the child, and only the biological parent, who is automatically granted legal parental status. This means that the other parent cannot make legal and potentially life-saving medical decisions. And if the couple later gets divorced, the non-biological parent has no legal visitation or custodial rights.

The way around this is for the non-biological parent to formally adopt his or her own child through a process called second parent adoption. Strange as it sounds, second parent adoption is the only way to guarantee that both parents are granted full parental rights, regardless of the circumstances.

Same-sex couples face distinctly unique challenges. Being told that you are not legally the parent of the child whom you helped raise, comfort and care for can be devastating. Fortunately, the law has provided same-sex couples a way to ensure that both can be legal parents.