Traci Owen Vella Scores Huge Victory With Alabama Court of Appeals

Traci Owen Vella Scores Huge Victory With Alabama Court of Appeals

| Feb 28, 2015 | Firm News

Alabama Court of Appeals Recognizes Adoptions by Same-Sex Parents
(Montgomery, AL, February 27, 2015)—Today, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals unanimously held that a second parent adoption granted to now separated same-sex parents by a Georgia court in 2007 must be recognized in Alabama—and that V.L., the adoptive mother of their three children, must be recognized as their parent and allowed to seek custody or visitation. The court explained that the “Georgia judgment is entitled to full faith and credit throughout the United States, including Alabama,” and ordered the case sent back to Family Court for a hearing on visitation. This decision reverses the same court’s earlier ruling last fall, which ruled that the adoption was void and could not be recognized because the Alabama court interpreted Georgia law as not allowing second parent adoptions.

In E.L. v. V.L., two women in a long term relationship had three children through donor insemination. The non-biological mother, V.L., adopted the children in Georgia. When the parents later broke up, the biological mother, E.L., kept V.L. from seeing the children. V.L. sought visitation in Alabama, where the family lives, which was granted. E.L. appealed and argued that V.L.’s adoption did not have to be recognized in Alabama, and the Court of Civil Appeals initially agreed.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and V.L.’s Alabama attorneys, Heather Fann and Traci Vella, sought a rehearing by the same court. The children’s Guardians Ad Litem also supported rehearing, arguing that the children must be able to count on their adoption being final. Although rehearings are rarely granted, the court reconsidered the case and heard arguments. Today, the court reversed its earlier decision and ruled that the family court properly recognized “V.L. as a second parent of the children.”

“We are elated that our client and her children will not be kept apart, and that the Alabama Court of Appeals correctly applied black and white constitutional law requiring all states to recognize court orders from other states, including adoptions by same-sex parents,” said NCLR Family Law Director Cathy Sakimura. “Children who are adopted must be able to count on their adoptions being final—any ruling that adoptions can be ignored or reconsidered years later puts all adopted children at risk of losing their forever families.”

“This is a great victory for parental rights and children’s rights,” said Traci Vella. “I’m very happy for my client and the children in this case who will not lose one of their parents who has raised them.”

“We are so pleased that our courts are recognizing that the law requires equal protection of all families,” said Heather Fann. ‘Much credit is due in this case to Legal Aid of Alabama, who fought as Guardians ad Litem for these children to preserve their relationships with both parents.”.

V.L is represented by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and Alabama attorneys Heather Fann of Boyd, Fernambucq, Dunn & Fann, P.C., and Traci Vella of Vella & King, Attorneys at Law.

The children’s Guardians Ad Litem are Breauna R. Peterson and Tobie J. Smith of the Legal Aid Society of Birmingham.

The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Georgia Council of Adoption Lawyers filed an amicus brief in support of rehearing.

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