A Recent Louisiana Case and the Power of Adoption

There’s a case–not such a recent case, but one just came to light thanks to Professor Art Leonard’s watchful eyes–out of Louisiana that confirms an important point about the portability of adoption.    Professor Leonard’s post includes a good summary of the facts.  You can also read the full opinion.   It’s quite long.  

After being together as a couple for 17 years, June Mire and Angela Palazzolo decided to have a child.   When Palazzolo did not become pregnant via assisted insemination, Mire did.   She gave birth to a daughter, IP,  in January 1997.

While the couple had met in Louisiana and the eventual case is a Louisiana case, at the time of the insemination and birth, the couple lived in California.   Consistent with California law, Palazzolo completed a second-parent adoption in 1997.

The couple moved back to Louisiana and eventually, things fell apart.   Dramatically and badly apart.   This case is the litigation that results from the deteriorated relationship and it considers the custody of and visitation with IP.  

As I said, the opinion is extremely long.   This is largely because it is treated as an ordinary (if bitterly contested) custody case.   In some ways that is a good thing.  While Mire did challenge the Palazzolo’s status as parent, the court did not dwell on this issue.   Recognition of her legal status as a parent by virtue of the California adoption is treated as fairly open-and-shut. 

That’s noteworthy in part because of another Louisiana case I’ve been following for some time now–the one about a birth certificate.   There’s two ways for the state to argue its point in that case.  First, it can resist any recognition of the adoption, arguing that it is inconsistent with Louisiana policy on adoption.  This is precisely the argument summarily rejected inPalazzolo’s case.   The Full Faith and Credit Clause requires one state to recognize an adoption completed in another state.  

(The second way Louisiana can argue the birth certificate case is to contend that even if they recognize the adoption, the issuance of a birth certificate is some sort of independent ministerial act which they can refuse to do.    It will be interesting to see both how the state frames this argument and how the court responds.)  

Meantime, in this case, the bitter relationship remains and in the end, much is left to the trial court.  If you read through all the testimony, some of the expert witnesses betray a distinct hostility to lesbian families.   But it is clear that Palazzolo gets visitation because she has status as a parent by virtue of completing the California adoption.   There is a presumption in favor of parental visitation that Mire cannot overcome.   Without parental status, Palazzolo’s relationship with her child would have been terminated.

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