Here’s How Much It Costs Same-Sex Couples to Have Children
First, comes love, then comes marriage, then comes — family planning! A growing number of queer people want to have children. Prudential’s 2016-2017 LGBT Financial Experience Survey showed that “23 percent of lesbians and 7 percent of gay men are financially responsible for a child under age 18. Among Gen Y study participants, 11 percent already have children and an additional 49 percent plan to have children in the future.”
Unfortunately, traditional methods aren’t available to same-sex couples to grow their families, so starting a family as a queer couple can be expensive. And that’s even before you account for the costs of raising children — according to the USDA, it costs $233,610 to raise a child in the U.S. to the age of 18 — and sending them to college. Without proper planning, same-sex couples could put themselves in financial risk today or in the future. So queer people and couples would do well to do a deep dive in family planning so they know what to expect.
What Are the Costs for Queer People to Grow Their Families?
Depending on the method an individual or couple chooses to expand their family, the cost can start as low as nothing — through public agency adoption — or exceed $150,000, through gestational surrogacy.
Here’s a breakdown of the cost of each method.
The Human Rights Campaign says private agency adoptions can cost between $5,000 and $40,000.
There are many ways to adopt a child and several costs associated with most expenses, including home study expenses and legal fees. It’s important to note that depending on arrangements made with birth mothers, some or all her medical expenses may be paid by the adoptive parent or parents.
Types of Adoptions and Estimated Costs
Foster Care Adoptions
$0 - $2,500+
Licensed Private Agency Adoptions
$5,000 - $40,000+
$8,000 - $40,000+
$5,000 - $40,000+
$7,000 - $30,000
Additional Adoption Costs
A cost unique for many same-sex couples and not their straight peers is the cost of second-parent adoptions. Many states won’t let two people of the same-sex petition to adopt the same child. Therefore, one partner must petition for and adopt a child, and then the other partner must file for a second-parent adoption of that same child. The cost of second-parent adoptions is between $2,000 and $3,000.
For people who want biological children, surrogacy can range between $100,000 to over $150,000 per child depending on the type of surrogacy chosen or the type of surrogacy that’s available. There are two main kinds of surrogacy: Traditional and gestational.
Traditional surrogacy includes impregnating the intended mother either via artificial insemination or in-vitro fertilization, and can contain the intended father’s sperm or that of a donor’s sperm. Artificial insemination is commonly referred to as “the turkey baster method” and more efficiently targets the intended mother’s egg with more potent sperm.
Gestational surrogacy involves fertilizing an egg with sperm outside of a womb to create an embryo, which is then implanted in the womb of the surrogate.
The process is known as in-vitro fertlization (sometimes referred to as “the test tube method”), and can include both the sperm/egg of one of the parents and that of a donor. With either in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination for same-sex couples, at least one parent will not be biologically related to the child.
Types of Surrogacy and Estimated Costs
Traditional Surrogacy via In Vitro Fertilization
$12,000 - $15,000+
Traditional Surracy & Donor Sperm
$12,300 - $19,000+
$45,000 - $70,000+
Gestational Surrogacy & Egg Donations
$58,500 - $83,500+
Gestational Surrogacy & Donor Sperm
$45,300 - $74,000+
Gestational Surrogacy & Donor Embryo
$63,000 - $100,000
Additional costs that may be required, contingent on the agreement among all parties, include maternity insurance, psychological support, and travel expenses.
Depending on the methods used and agreements made, first parent and second parent adoption costs may be required.
What Else Should Queer People Consider When Growing Their Families?
Same-sex marriage only became legalized at the federal level in the U.S. in June of 2015, and many federal and state laws have yet to be updated. Many states have not updated the language in their state constitutions and policies to accommodate all the effects of legalizing same-sex marriage.
For example, only after June 2015 was it discovered that the state of Florida didn’t have updated language necessary to permit two people of the same sex to be on one child’s birth certificates. A lawsuit was filed against the state of Florida, and the law was overturned.
“Now more than ever, LGBT families need to button up their parental rights, and that can be costly,” says Elizabeth Schwartz, attorney and author of Before I Do: A Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay & Otherwise. “Parents should have an adoption done even if they’re both already on the birth certificate, because some states and countries won't extend the marital presumption to benefit your family.”
Laws will be updated and changed over time and lawsuits won’t be required to update all laws and policies. Queer families just need to be aware of these potential hurdles.
If this all seems daunting and confusing, that’s because it is. Queer families shouldn’t go it alone if they can avoid it. To make the process easier, hire a professional, such as a family law attorney. Most family planning professionals will help narrow down your family planning options to best suit your needs. They can then help you navigate the family planning system.
Preparing Your Finances for Parenthood
To prepare for the costs associated with having and raising children, same-sex couples should make some common-sense personal finance moves.
For starters, you should open a savings account at a credit union or bank when you decide to have children. Set up either a recurring direct deposit from your employer or a recurring electronic funds transfer (EFT) from another account into this new account. Then, forget about it.
“Slowly build a ‘legal war chest’ if you plan to start a family, [and] make it part of your regular budget,” says financial advisor, Cathy Pareto. “Seek legal assistance and resources from GLBT-specific or GLBT-friendly advocacy groups such as Lambda Legal, ACLU and Legal Aid.”
It’s also smart to pay off your debt before embarking on this voyage — the less debt you have before having children, the easier it will be to manage your family’s cash flow. And you’ll also want to be sure your credit score is in good shape: Whether you pursue a personal loan to have your child, do renovations to prepare for your child, or obtain a mortgage to move into a new house because you need more space to raise a child, you will want a good credit score to get the best rate.
Insurance and Tax Considerations
Health insurance is also critical, as plans provide some coverage for family planning costs. If you choose an agency adoption or surrogacy, for example, your health insurance provider may cover related expenses. Payouts are often small, but it helps to get whatever help you can. If you haven’t already done so, get life insurance, too.
You should also have an idea of how your taxes will change. The IRS gives deductions for out-of-pocket medical expenses to filers who itemize on their Schedule A. Examples include out-of-pocket doctor visits, preventative care tests, ultrasounds and birthing classes for you and the birthmother regardless of the extent to which the birthmother stays in the child’s life.
Once you child arrives, you can realize other tax benefits. For instance, the Earned Income Tax Credit gives those who qualify a tax credit over $3,000 for their first child and more credits for additional children. The Child Tax Credit may reduce your taxes by up to $1,000 per year per child for filers who qualify. And the Child and Dependent Care Credit can lower your taxes by as much as $3,000 annually per child to cover costs such as daycare.
Finally, you should find out your company’s maternity/paternity leave policy. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is work-leave without pay that gives employees 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, but your company may have more liberal maternity and paternity leave policies that provide paid leave benefits while you have and raise your new child.