What same-sex couples should know about growing their families

a gay couple sit together, laughing

It takes a lot to be a parent. A lot of energy. A lot of patience. And — let’s be honest — a lot of money. Haven Life wants to lend a hand. No, we’re not available to babysit, but we’ve spoken to some experts (plus a few moms and dads) to get their advice on starting a family, raising a family, and yes, paying for a family. These are their stories, and this is our “Growing Family” series.

We’ve always had love, but since 2015 we’ve had marriage and now we have more queer families. As same-sex marriages become more common, queer families are looking more traditional. In increasing numbers, after brides and the grooms say, “I do,” more queer couples are anticipating a visit from the proverbial stork. Unlike for some of our straight peers, the stork never arrives unannounced.

Building a family is inherently more expensive for same-sex couples because the traditional means for having children aren’t available to us. Because the cost of having a child ranges from nearly free (public foster adoption) to $150,000 (gestational surrogacy), it’s important for queer couples to not bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

Get prepared

It’s nearly impossible to prepare too much for having a family, even if you don’t feel like you’re quite there yet. As the popular Instagram family Two Dads Two Kids told us, “We saved money in anticipation of adoption. In hindsight, we wish we would’ve been more frugal in our 20’s and 30’s so that we would have more in savings.”

Queer couples should do their research to decide on the best option to grow their families. As Two Dads Two Kids advise, “Explore all types of avenues to building a family (foster care, adoption and surrogacy). However, we really push for adoption in the United States, as there are so many children who need homes.”

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Options and costs for same-sex couples to grow their families

Here are some options for a same-sex couple to grow a family and the costs associated with each.

Adoption

Adoption costs can range from nearly nothing with a public agency adoption to between $5,000 and $40,000, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The plethora of adoption options seems to correlate with as many associated costs, from in-home studies to legal fees. When a birth mother is involved, as an adopting parent, you may find yourself paying for some or all her living and medical expenses.

According to FindLaw, these are the cost ranges for some of the more common adoption options.

Types of Adoptions and Estimated Costs

Foster Care Adoptions$0 – $2,500
Licensed Private Agency Adoptions$5,000 – $40,000+
Independent Adoptions$8,000 – $40,000+
Facilitated/Unlicensed Adoptions$5,000 – $40,000+
International Adoptions

$7,000 – $30,000

Although costs are high, money should never keep a child from finding a forever home. Is there a way to help? Yes! Same-sex couples who want to adopt a child and need financial support should investigate adoption grants. Adoption grants from organizations such as Help Us Adopt can provide as little as $1,000 and up to $15,000.

Surrogacy

For couples who want biological children, surrogacy can range from $150,000 to over $240,000 per child depending on the type of surrogacy that’s chosen or available. Additional birthing costs may be required contingent on the agreement among all parties, including maternity insurance, psychological support, and travel expenses. Because pricing can vary, it’s important for couples to talk with a number of different clinics and compare pricing and experience with others who have paid for surrogacy.

There are two main kinds of surrogacy, traditional and gestational. Traditional surrogacy includes impregnating the mother either via artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization and can contain the intended father’s sperm or that of donor-sperm. Artificial insemination, commonly referred to as “the turkey baster method,” more efficiently targets the intended mother’s egg with more potent sperm. In vitro fertilization is sometimes referred to as “the test tube method” and includes fertilizing an egg with sperm outside of a womb to create an embryo that’s then implanted in either the intended or, with gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother.

Gestational surrogacy can include the intended mother’s egg and intended father’s sperm or have both the egg and sperm donated to create an embryo outside of the intended or surrogate mother that’s then implanted in the surrogate mother.

With either method, for same-sex couples, at least one parent won‘t be biologically related to the child until further medical advancements are made.

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Other considerations for same-sex couples

Parental roles

Family structures are as varied as the number of ways to grow families. Indeed, “birth mothers frequently choose gay men as the adoptive parent of their child so that the child will only ever have one mother,” says Adrienne Elliott, Executive Director of Adoption Options. In some cases, two people of the opposite sex but with no romantic relationship have children together, each maintaining parental rights.

Regardless of how you structure your family, it’s important to clearly and legally define roles. As Stuart Anderson, a father who partnered with a lesbian friend to co-parent, shares, “Defining parenting relationship through legal channels, especially financial expectations, reduces the potential for conflicts in the future.” The sooner those roles are outlined and agreed upon, the better for all involved and the less chance of there being a costly legal battle down the road.

Second parent adoptions

A cost that’s unique for many same-sex couples and not our straight peers is the cost of second-parent adoptions. Many states still won’t let two people of the same-gender be listed on the same birth certificate or to petition to adopt the same child. With the increasing number of religious freedom bills being presented to state legislatures across the country, as with Kansas, the threat to queer families grows. Even if there’s not an intentional threat in a state, the language in many state constitutions has not been updated since marriage equality was legalized in 2015 to permit two people of the same gender on the same birth certificate.

In such cases, one partner can be listed on a birth certificate or petition for and adopt a child while the other partner must file for a second-parent adoption of that same child. The cost of second-parent adoptions typically runs between $2,000 and $3,000.

Health insurance

Some health insurance plans offer limited coverage for family planning. If you choose an agency adoption or surrogacy, for example, your health insurance provider may cover associated expenses. Payouts are often small, but anything is helpful.

Taxes

There are tax benefits for having children, even with the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA). For example, the child tax credit was increased from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on your household income. The income levels for 2018 were also increased under TCJA from previous years to $400,000 for married couples filing jointly and $200,000 for individuals who are the primary guardian.

Unlike previous years, the child tax credit will be refundable up to $1,400 starting with taxes filed for 2018. This means you can request a refund up to $1,400 even if you don’t owe any federal income taxes.

The child and dependent care tax credit currently remains the same. As is usually the case, the number of credits you can receive reduces with the increase in your income. If your taxable household income is $15,000 or less, you can claim a tax credit up to 35% of the cost of childcare. With a household income of $43,000, your claim for a credit is maxed out at 20%. All credits are maxed out at $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two children.

As always, talk with a tax professional to understand how any changes in your family structure will affect your personal tax filing.

Corporate maternity/paternity leave

What may or may not help same-sex couples is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FLMA is work-leave without pay that gives employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a birth or adoption. Your employer may have more liberal maternity and paternity policies. New parents can often use a combination of leave without pay, vacation, sick and other leave. Take full advantage of the opportunity to spend quality time with your new family member.

Consider hiring a family planning professional

If you feel confused or overwhelmed by all this, it’s not your fault and that may be why you and your partner should hire a family planning professional, such as a family law attorney. Most family planning professionals will help narrow down your family planning options to best suit your needs and help you navigate the family planning system.

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Ongoing costs

Each year, the USDA publishes its estimated cost to raise a child from the current year to age 18, not including college costs. In 2017, that cost was $233,610. Just one year later that increased  5% to $245,340. But, it’s not the day-to-day expenses that add the most strain to the pocketbook.

As Anderson shared, “The actual food, shelter and clothing costs are minimal. What is financially overwhelming is the cost of daycare. I was paying over $900 per month. Even the after-school programs are expensive. The kids’ school has YMCA manage the after-school program and it’s around $400 per kid per month just from 3 pm to 5:30 pm.”

Although the costs are high in many cases, both Anderson and Two Dads Two Kids expressed the joy they’ve experienced with being parents. Anderson says, “Many favorite parts are having a grown son who shares his life so openly with me and the friendship we have beyond our father-son roles, watching my other children’s distinct personalities and the loving atmosphere we have in our home. Having a daughter is so unique to me. She is so different from my boys.” While Two Dads says, “we enjoy it all, even when we may feel exhausted, defeated, broke and clueless about certain things.”

True, family planning is an exhaustive process, and same-sex couples have some unique considerations that add to the challenge. Research your options online with professionals and families who have already done it, but don’t get hung up on waiting for the perfect time. Anderson says, “I have friends who waited for the ‘right time’” and never ended up having kids.” For some people, no time ever seems perfect. But planning allows you to be sensible about what you are doing and eventually you just have to do it and do the best you can.

David Auten and John Schneider are authors, bloggers and speakers for DebtFreeGuys.com and host of Queer Money. Their mission is to build a financially strong queer community.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Haven Life Insurance Agency offers this as educational information only. Haven Life Insurance Agency does not provide tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own legal counsel and other professionals, as appropriate.

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC15DTC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. Not all riders are available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is 0K71922 and in Arkansas, 100139527.

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