Family Law amendments will extend same-sex couples' parental rights

Newborn at Tartu University Hospital (TÜK). September 2020.
Newborn at Tartu University Hospital (TÜK). September 2020. Source: Aili Vahtla/ERR

If Estonia legalizes same-sex marriage, it will also give couples more opportunities to become parents.

Maarja Kärson, a Ministry of Social Affairs adviser, gave an overview using the example of a married female same-sex couple.

"One possibility is that one woman already has a child from a previous marriage. Then she is already a parent. If you get married and one partner has a child, the other spouse can adopt," she said.

It would also be possible for cohabiting couples to adopt a partner's child.

Another option is expanding artificial insemination legislation.

"And here the new law introduces an important new nuance. That if [two] women are married and one of the spouses consents to artificial insemination for the other spouse, both women will become parents from the birth of the child. They will no longer have to go through the adoption procedure," Kärson explained.

Joint adoption would also become possible.

Baby. Source: Pixabay

"The law in force today allows a married couple to jointly adopt a third-party child, i.e. a child who is a stranger to them. And this possibility will also arise for same-sex couples if they are married," she said.

One situation which is slightly more complicated is a same-sex couple having a child naturally, with an egg or sperm donor, but without artificial insemination. Under the current law, if a man and a woman are married and a child is born into their family, the man is assumed to be the father by default.

"[But] there is no such assumption for same-sex couples. If there are two women or two men in a marriage, the other partner does not automatically have parental status. Except in the case of artificial insemination," said Kärson.

In such cases, the child's biological parents still have parental status. 

But if the law is expanded, in a scenario with a same-sex couple, they could both be parents in the eyes of the law if the partner adopts the child.

"And this is will only be possible if the child does not have another biological parent or if the other parent consents to the adoption," said Kärson.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

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