From today’s In re the Petition of Theresa Goudeau to Adopt a Minor Child (Ga. Ct. App.), 2010 WL 3369363 (some paragraph breaks added) (opinion not yet on any free online site, to my knowledge). I should say that the trial court’s decision to take a child away from foster parents because they’re an unmarried couple — and to deny the foster mother’s adoption petition because she’s living with her boyfriend — appears to me to be not only against Georgia law but also cruel. Whatever might be the merits of a preference for married parents over unmarried parents in such matters, the court of appeals was surely right that “to remove [a nearly 3-year-old girl] from the only family she has ever known would be ‘devastating’ to the child.”
The trial court’s response that “It cannot be in a child’s best interest to be placed in a household which the courts of this state have condemned as immoral” strikes me as deeply inadequate. And any argument that a policy of barring unmarried couples from being foster parents (or barring unmarried people with live-in lovers from being adoptive parents) would be good for other children in the future also strikes me as unsound: It’s not like our system is so awash in would-be foster and adoptive parents who are willing to raise babies born with cocaine in their systems that we can afford to reject apparently eminently loving and effective parents. Again, the matter might be different if we were considering a preference for married parents over unmarried ones, when there was a choice to be made. But that does not seem to be the case here, or in many other situations.
In any case, here’s the appellate court’s discussion of the trial court’s reasoning:
In a written order issued a few weeks later on March 12, 2010, the superior court denied the petition for adoption and held that Goudeau and Lovett should not have physical custody of A.C. because of their relationship with each other. The court found no common law marriage existed between Goudeau and Lovett and found that clear and convincing evidence established they were “living in an immoral, meretricious relationship, ... and that the adoption and their continued custody is inappropriate.” Quoting from cases involving illegal contracts, change of custody and visitation cases between divorced parents, and criminal statutes prohibiting sodomy, fornication, and adultery, the court held that allowing a child to be adopted by an unmarried person living with someone else violates Georgia’s “public policy,” which favors the institution of marriage. The court continued:
DFACS has adopted a policy, in contravention of Georgia law, that persons living in meretricious relationships may serve as foster parents and adoptive parents. DFACS’ Adoption Services Manual (March 2007) expressly confirms this policy by requiring “significant others” to attend [adoption orientation and training]. DFACS’ policy violates the established public policy and laws of this state favoring the institution of marriage, and declaring meretricious relationships as immoral. Georgia recognizes the legitimacy of married couples and single individuals. It does not recognize any other status, regardless of the mores of some members of society who have thrown off long-standing social, moral, ethical and religious constraints. DFACS’ policy offends the laws of this state, the sensibilities of this court, and the common conscious [sic] of the moral, ethical and religious citizens of this state. (Emphasis in original.)