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Case arguing for a mother to be awarded attorney fees after winning her right to a second-parent adoption


This is a continuation of the Sharon S. matter, in which the California Supreme Court confirmed the right to second-parent adoptions in the state. In 2001 a divided panel of the California Court of Appeal held that second-parent adoptions were invalid in the state, jeopardizing the legal ties between thousands of children and their parents. The matter was then appealed to the California Supreme Court. Lambda Legal, in cooperation with the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that second-parent adoptions were both legal and critically important for families in California. In 2003 the California Supreme Court reversed the appellate court’s decision and affirmed that second-parent adoptions are legal within the state. The case was returned to the lower courts to determine if the prevailing mother, the plaintiff in the Sharon S. case, was eligible to receive an award of attorney fees under California’s “Private Attorney General” statute. This case was named In re Joshua S. and Lambda Legal submitted a friend-of-the-court brief supporting her claim. The trial court granted the mother’s motion for fees, but the appellate court reversed the decision. The matter is once again pending before the California Supreme Court.


Over the past 15 years, trial courts across the state have routinely granted thousands of second-parent adoptions, and thousands of California families now rely on these adoption decrees to provide health insurance, Social Security, pension and inheritance rights and other crucial protections for their children.

Lambda Legal’s Impact

Lambda Legal advocates through the courts and through public education that LGBT and HIV-positive parents must be treated equally under the law and that the best interests of children must always be observed. The California Supreme Court has recognized this goal, and parents who fight for their right to be treated equally and win should not be penalized with expensive court fees.

    • July 2002: Filed a friend-of-the-court brief
    • May 2006: Filed a friend-of-the-court brief