The joy of adding a child to a family is undeniable.  The bond is forever.  But with that joy comes a serious set of responsibilities for the new parent or parents.  That’s why the guidelines for adoption are stringent.


Because there are many avenues leading to adoption, it’s best to consult an attorney in Portland who routinely handles adoption.  The attorney can help walk you through the various options and represent you throughout the process.  The ways a child can be adopted in Oregon include:


Oregon Department of Human Services – when courts terminate parental rights or parents choose to give up those rights, children enter into the custody of DHS.  Many times, this involves older children or children with special needs.  Some subsidies from the state may be available to assist with caring for adopted children with special needs.  Attorney fees and adoption costs are paid by the state.


Private adoption agency – Adoption agencies are licensed by DHS and must meet high ethical and professional standards.  Paid adoption facilitators and adoption agencies that operate without a license are illegal in Oregon.  Adoption agencies take legal custody of children from parents and have discretion over where to place those children.


Independent adoptions – A child is placed directly with adoptive parents by the birth parent in an independent adoption.  This is best done with advance planning that includes working with an adoption agency or an attorney that specializes in adoptions.


International adoptions – Some countries allow United States citizens to adopt children from their country.  Almost all international adoptions work through adoption agencies and must meet Oregon laws, U.S. immigration laws and the laws of the foreign country.


Step parent or second parent adoptions – This commonly takes place when parents are remarried, and one spouse adopts the other’s child.  In Oregon, this can be done as an opposite sex couple or a same sex couple.  Second parent adoptions can also be done when the couple is not married but are in a long-term relationship.


Consent to artificial insemination in the context of an unregistered domestic partnership - Recently in Oregon the Court of Appeals decided that in unregistered domestic partnership cases where there was no second parent adoption, a child’s birth certificate can be reissued designating both parties as the legal parents of their children.  This is decided on a case-by-case basis.  Some of the facts that would lead to an order to reissue a child ‘s birth certificate designating both the birth parent and a second parent include but are not limited to: the children were born during the parents’ relationship; the non-birth parent consented to and/or participated in the artificial insemination process; the parents participated in a commitment ceremony; the parents have taken the same last name;  the parents considered themselves spouses and held themselves out as spouses; the parents shared child rearing responsibilities, commingled their finances and made financial decisions together; and most important, that it is in the best interest of the child that the non-birth parent be recognized as the child’s legal parent on that child’s birth certificate.

On the surface, determining who the father is in a paternity proceeding seems like it would be a simple and straightforward issue to resolve.  In Portland, as is the case throughout Oregon, it’s important to establish this fact for purposes of determining who must pay child support.


Determining paternity works fine in cases where an acknowledged father steps forward and has agreed that he is the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents.  This is accomplished when both parents sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form at a hospital when the child is born, or the father is shown on the child’s birth certificate.  In cases where only one parent will have custody of the child, the parent who has physical custody of the child at the time the form is signed is said to have legal custody.


But it is less clear cut in a case where a person is the presumed father.  There are certain standards that come into play to identify who the presumed father is.


  • The man and the mother were married at the time the child was conceived or born.


  • The man married the mother after the child was born and he agreed to list his name on the child’s birth certificate for the purposes of supporting the child.


  • The man publicly and openly acknowledged the child was his.


Paternity attorneys will advise that in addition to establishing financial support for the child, establishing paternity creates a legal status that means the father has all the parental rights and responsibilities that a parent would have if the child had been born to a mother and father who were married.


If you do not have custody of the child, this can include visitation rights and an ability to seek custody, a responsibility to contribute to the support of the child, and in cases where there is a support judgment, support may be enforced by withholding wages and intercepting tax refunds.

The Oregon Family Fairness Act created a mechanism for same sex partners to legally enjoy a recognized status beginning in 2008.  The Act created Oregon Registered Domestic Partnership, which allows same sex partners to enter into a civil contract.  Both partners must sign a Declaration of Domestic Partnership and have it notarized for the legal status to become official.


There are six standards each of the partners must meet if they want to register for a Declaration of Domestic Partnership.


  1. Must be 18 years or older
  2. Not currently married or in another domestic partnership
  3. Must be of sound mind and able to consent to the partnership
  4. Must not be nearer of kin than second cousins
  5. Must be the same sex
  6. At least one of the partners must be an Oregon resident


With the formalization of these kinds of relationships, the need for legal assistance by attorneys specializing in domestic partnerships in Portland has grown as well.  An experienced domestic partner attorney can properly guide couples through the legal issues unique to their situation.  The rights and responsibilities afforded to same sex domestic couples are now much the same as those afforded to heterosexual married individuals.


Those rights and responsibilities include, among other things:


  • Property division rights
  • The right to file joint state tax returns in Oregon
  • Medical and emergency health care rights
  • Spousal support if the partnership is dissolved
  • Where jointly owned property is involved, the automatic right of survivorship applies
  • Inheritance rights of an estate if the partner dies without a will


Portland has often been described as a progressive city.  That thinking is reinforced when it comes to the laws surrounding same sex couples in the city, and throughout the state of Oregon.  Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, is openly bisexual, the first such governor in United States history.  Tina Kotek, Oregon’s House Speaker is openly lesbian.  The judge who repealed Oregon’s same sex marriage ban has come out as openly gay, and there are several circuit court judges in Oregon who have declared their gay status in the last 10 years.  In addition, other judges have publicly expressed their agreement with the laws that support the LBGT community.


Although Oregon decriminalized same-sex sexual activity in 1972, and recognized same sex domestic partnerships in many counties in the late 1990′s, Oregon did not officially recognize domestic partnerships for same sex couples until 2008 when Oregon’s Family Fairness Act was enacted.  Same sex marriage was not legalized in Oregon until May 2014 after a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the state’s constitutional amendment banning such marriages was unconstitutional.


Oregon gave benefits to same sex partners of state employees beginning in 1998.  That same year, Oregon banned discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on gender identity and sexual orientation.


Currently, same sex couples with valid marriages from jurisdictions outside Oregon do not need to notify the state of their marital status unless it is required information when doing business with the state.  This most commonly happens when couples file their state taxes.


It should also be noted that while state agencies recognize legally valid marriages from other jurisdictions, including Canada and other foreign countries, not all private entities are required to do so.  This can include private sector businesses such as lodging, hospitals, restaurants and private employers.  Oregon is famous for the case involving a bakery that refused to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple, resulting in an award of damages to that couple.


If you are unsure of your rights as a same-sex couple, it may be best to consult a Portland-based same sex couple attorney who can advise you more thoroughly on your rights and privileges locally and throughout the state.

Jensen & Leiberan Attorneys at Law

One Lincoln Center
10300 SW Greenburg Road, Suite 300
Portland, OR 97223
Phone: (503) 641-7990
Fax: 503-646-2053
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