New York Judge Rules that “Close Friends” Can Legally Adopt Children


Let me repeat myself:

I try to be cynical, but I just can’t keep up.

A New York judge has ruled, by way of a “new interpretation of intimate,” that close friends may now adopt a child together.

From the National Catholic Register:

NEW YORK — A New York state judge has delivered an unprecedented ruling that says close friends who live in separate households can legally adopt children together.

“KAL and LEL are two loving adults who are both functioning as G.’s parents and have a relationship with each other built on a solid, decade-plus friendship,” stated Surrogate Rita Mella in her Dec. 27, 2013, ruling from Manhattan surrogate court.

Surrogate Mella’s ruling, “The Matter of G.,” involves two friends, living in separate households, who decided to adopt a child from Ethiopia together in 2011. According to court papers, the woman, identified as KAL, first wanted to conceive a child via artificial insemination. She then told her wish for a child to her male friend, identified as LEL, who then offered to donate his own sperm. Both KAL and LEL have been friends since 2000, and LEL’s offer meant KAL would not have to use an anonymous sperm donor. After failed attempts at in vitro fertilization, KAL and LEL decided to adopt “G.,” a 2-year-old child from Ethiopia …

…  “It’s madness,” Ed Mechmann, director of the family life office for the Archdiocese of New York, told the Register. “It just shows how far our society has gone once we move away from marriage as the norm, and we leave these things up to judges. It really just shows there is no limit.”

While Mella’s ruling may be unprecedented, the judge outlines the legal basis for how she came to the conclusion that close friends could adopt under New York state law. Mella noted that the state’s domestic relations law was amended in 2010 to allow “any two unmarried adult intimate partners together” the ability to adopt, alongside single persons and married couples..

But Mella said it was “difficult to identify a definitive plain meaning of [the term] ‘intimate partners,’” since the New York Legislature did not bother to define the term.

She added, “It is a relatively new phrase, and one of many imprecise terms used to describe relationships along a continuum between ‘acquaintance’ or ‘friend’ and ‘sexual partner’ or ‘spouse.’”

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  • SisterCynthia

    Setting aside the legal weirdness on which she based this decision (and since I don’t see it as a “moral” issue to create co-parents out of non-spouses), my response is basically pragmatic. First, I don’t understand why people with no real committment to each other would want to commit to raising the same kid as co-parents. Do they think it will be like co-owning a puppy, or sharing a work project, passing the kid back and forth to whoever is up for handling the child at that moment? Or do they think it will be “like divorced parents, but without the animosity”? Just looking at the difficulty two households have in raising kids, either after divorce of because of the “baby daddy” phenomena, due to the disconnect in routines, expectations and social circles, WHY would you intentionally sign up for that? If you REALLY want a kid, adopt them yourself, straight up. God knows, there are plenty of kids who need committed parents! If you just want to be a back-up parent and just have a “special place” in some kid’s life, be their godparent. Really, this just doesn’t seem to me like the adults thought this one out very well, and eventually they will likely either fight to possess the kid apart from each other, or one of them will fade out of the picture because it’s easier that trying to co-parent (here’s hoping they BOTH don’t decide it’s too hard). So, I don’t know that I could say this ruling creates a situation in the best interests of the child, which I am thinking the judge should have been more concerned about than whether the novelty of it was “legal.” It seems it would have been better to require ONE of them to be THE legal parent, and have that person name the other as guardian in case of need. Then they could informally carry out whatever plan they have that they think will work. But such a ruling would have been about justice, not legal game-playing, and it doesn’t seem judges worry about what is just, only legal.

  • Theodore Seeber

    At least poor little G will have both a mother and a father, but what a mess!

  • Melinda Selmys

    Seriously, what’s the problem with this? I remember growing up with Anne of Green Gables. A man and a woman (Marilla and Matthew) who were not married (they were brother and sister) adopted an orphan and raised her together. There are a lot of kids, especially outside of the West, who need parents. And it’s a lot more realistic for a person to provide care and love to a child if they are not required to be on duty alone 24-7. These are people who may have very valid and legitimate reasons why they don’t want to marry, but they do want to be able to give of themselves in motherhood and fatherhood. Using the kind of logic that precludes this we should also say that it is wrong for religious communities to build orphanages, because it’s not the “ideal” nuclear family environment. It just doesn’t make sense.
    Why multiply opportunities to feel moral indignation where nothing immoral is actually taking place?

  • Manny


  • Sus_1

    Even I can’t defend this one!

  • JohnE_o

    Probably a better situation for the kid than being in Ethiopia.