Scalia Spotlights

M-VETS Finalizes Adoption for an Active Duty Air Force Couple

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) assisted an active duty Air Force servicemember formalize her wife’s parental rights through an adoption. Though the servicemember’s wife was listed on the child’s birth certificate, the servicemember, who was the child’s birth mother, feared that her wife could lose parental rights in certain states should same-sex marriage rights be repealed. To safeguard her wife’s parental rights, the couple sought to formalize the parental relationship through a court order.    

M-VETS filed a Petition for Adoption on behalf of the couple, along with the servicemember’s affidavit in support of the adoption, proposed order, and vital statistics forms. Because the couple’s child was conceived through a sperm donor who waived his parental rights, the matter was straightforward and, in July 2022, the Fairfax County Circuit Court entered the Final Order of Adoption. M-VETS Student Advisor Liz Faris assisted with the adoption and worked with the servicemember and her wife to ensure an efficient process. 

“With rights being taken away left and right, my wife and I were scared that marriage equality would be the next target,” said the servicemember. “If that were to happen, the parental rights to our son could be in jeopardy. I gave birth to our son but my wife was a part of the process of creating him just as much as I was. We knew the only way to ensure that our son would be OUR son in the eyes of the law, would be a step-parent adoption. Due to military training and a PCS, we had to act fast and M-VETS came to our aid. Liz and her team were efficient, accommodating, and very informative. We knew what was happening every step of the way,” said the servicemember. “They helped keep our family protected and together!”

“This was an issue of first impression for the clinic,” M-VETS Deputy Director Leigh Winstead said.  “We handle many stepparent adoptions, but have never had the opportunity to file an adoption to solidify a parental relationship on behalf of a same-sex couple.  In light of the potential implications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs on the rights of same-sex couples, many are seeking this course of action to safeguard their parental rights.  Even though the servicemember’s wife was listed as the child’s parent on the birth certificate, a birth certificate is considered an administrative record—formalizing the parental relationship through a court order provides added protection.  I am thrilled we were able to provide this protection and peace of mind for our clients and am very grateful for the diligent work of our Student Advisor, Liz Faris, to accomplish our clients’ objectives,” Winstead said. 

M-VETS provides free legal representation to veterans, active duty service members, and their families while allowing law students to gain practical legal experience under the supervision of practicing attorneys. M-VETS provides representation in a variety of matters including Virginia civil litigation matters, uncontested divorces, consumer protection matters, wills and powers of attorney, as well as assisting with matters before the VA and various administrative boards, including discharge upgrades, record corrections, military pay and entitlement matters, and VA disability benefit appeals.