Many same-sex, transgender, and other LGBTQ couples want to build a family. But unlike opposite-sex cisgender couples, the process of getting started isn’t so simple. There are logistical issues, legal hurdles, and financial obstacles that you could face.
But the good news is that you have several options for having or adopting a child, so it is essential to have a plan in place as early as possible that covers various needs throughout the years. That way, you’ll be prepared as your family grows, and you can better navigate even the toughest financial challenges.
Understanding Your Options
In the United States, it is estimated that approximately 3 million LGBTQ individuals have had a child, and that roughly 6 million children have an LGBTQ parent. Couples who are of the same gender—as compared to heterosexual couples—are six times more likely to be raising foster children, and four times more likely to be raising adopted children.
But no matter how you identify, if you want to raise children—or even have a baby—there are actually many potential options for you. These can include in vitro fertilization, insemination, adoption, and surrogacy.
In vitro fertilization typically involves taking eggs that are received via an ultrasound and then placing them in a petri dish with sperm cells. If these become an embryo, it is transferred to a female’s uterus. It often takes a couple of “cycles” (or more) to attain a healthy embryo, so at approximately $12,000 to $15,000 per cycle, this process can be expensive—especially because in vitro fertilization is not usually covered by insurance.
Insemination refers to the placement of gamete in a woman’s reproductive tract with the goal of pregnancy. There are different types of insemination, but the most popular is to transfer the semen into the female’s uterus using a special type of syringe. Artificial insemination usually costs between $300 and $500 per cycle. Because it is less expensive than in vitro fertilization, it is often tried first.
Adoption is another popular option for
LGBTQ individuals and couples to start or grow a family. This may be done through an agency, your state, or as a private person-to-person agreement. The cost of adoption can vary widely, with some options costing $20,000 or more.
The adoption laws can vary from state to state. For instance, in Texas, the birth mother must maintain parental rights for at least 48 hours after giving birth. During this time, she has full parental rights. But after the 48-hour time period has elapsed, the birth mother may place the baby for adoption. It can be more difficult for LGBTQ parents to adopt, though, particularly in highly conservative counties.
Some LGBTQ individuals and couples use a surrogate to help them have a baby. A surrogate is a woman who becomes artificially inseminated and then carries the baby and delivers it. With a traditional surrogate, the woman who carries the baby is considered the biological mother because her egg is used.
However, by going with a gestational surrogate, in vitro fertilization is used with the woman who carries the baby. Therefore, both the seed and the egg can be donated. The average cost of surrogacy can range from $90,000 to $130,000, depending on the arrangements that are made. The legal requirements and the cost of other services can also vary from one state to another.
The Cost of Raising a Child
Having a child can change your life in many ways—including financially—so it is essential to plan ahead. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost of raising a child to age 18 for middle-income parents was $233,610 in 2015. And with an annual adjustment for inflation of 2.2 percent each year factored in, the lifetime cost of raising a child that is born in 2022 is now estimated to be closer to $272,049. The largest expense associated with raising a child is housing, followed by food.
The actual dollar figure can vary, though, based on your geographic area. The good news is that each additional child costs less, based on economies of scale. It is important to note that these figures do not include the cost of higher education.
Start Saving Early for College
If you would like your child to attend college, it is recommended that you start saving early. In 2022, the average cost of a four-year institution is $35,331. But this figure can vary, too, based on whether the school is public or private, and whether the student gets a tuition discount for in-state residents.
There are different ways you could set aside money for your child’s future education expenses, including some that offer tax-related incentives. These include:
• 529 College Savings Plan
• Coverdell Education Savings Account
• Custodial account
• Personal savings account
• Roth IRA
• Cash-value life insurance
Important Parenting Considerations
In addition to the challenges of having or adopting a child, there are several other items to consider as an LGBTQ parent, including:
Lack of parental recognition. When a heterosexual married couple has a baby, both individuals are automatically considered to be the legal guardians of the child. But this is not the case for same-sex or other types of LGBTQ couples.
Access to healthcare. It is estimated that sexual minorities are about twice as likely as straight individuals to be uninsured. But even if you are insured, you may not have the same coverage regarding fertility options that heterosexual people do. For instance, insurance policies for fertility treatments are often written in a manner that applies only to heterosexual couples.
Paid parental leave. Employer policies that allow paid family leave for the birth or adoption of a child might not pertain to many LGBTQ family structures.
Legal rights to the child. A legal parent is a person who is legally recognized as the child’s parent and who has the legal right to have custody and make decisions about the child’s health, education, and well-being. In many states, though, a person who is not a legal parent has no decision-making authority, even if that individual lives with the child and otherwise functions as the child’s parent.
If you are not biologically related to your child, legal experts recommend taking steps to protect your legal status as a parent—even if you are married to your child’s biological parent.
Putting Your Financial Plan in Place
As a same- or similar-gender couple, having children can be complicated but well worth it to make your family complete. It is recommended that you talk with legal and financial professionals who are well-versed in working with the LGBTQ community, and who can advise you in setting up the necessary short- and long-term financial plans that are needed.
Grace S. Yung, CFP ®, is a Certified Financial Planner practitioner with experience in helping LGBTQ individuals, domestic partners, and families plan and manage their finances since 1994. She is the managing director at Midtown Financial Group, LLC, in Houston.Yung can be reached at [email protected]. Visit letsmake aplan.org or midtownfg.com/lgbtqplus.10.htm.