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Parental leave for non-genetic parents

Parental leave for non-genetic parents

After bringing your new child home, life can’t help but be radically different. And the first day that you have to wake up and go to work – as if this is a day like any other – is always going to be strange. It’s even stranger, though, if you haven’t had a little time away from work to adjust to the newest member of your family.

Unfortunately, U.S. parental leave policies are often less-than-stellar, and depending on where you live, the amount of parental leave same-sex couples get can be an even more murky, difficult subject.

The Family Medical Leave Act

In the U.S., the only federal guarantee of parental leave of any kind besides what individual employers choose to give comes from the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.

Technically, the FMLA guarantees a certain amount of leave to a new parents who meet its employment qualifications – from biological parents to adoptive parents to stepparents to parents who aren’t parents at all, but who are in loco parentis, or taking on a parental role, either financially or by providing primary care to a child.

In practice, the FMLA is limited by the employment qualifications it’s based on – which leaves a lot of workers out – as well as by the amount of time off it actually offers, and by the fact that the leave it offers is unpaid. You only qualify for unpaid parental leave if you work somewhere with more than 50 employees working within a 74 mile radius, and have worked there for at least a year, for at least 1,250 hours.

This unpaid parental leave – meant to allow you to settle a new child into your home – is for a maximum of 12 weeks sometime in the first 12 months after bringing your little one home.

Other options

To make up for these limitations in federal law, some states are stepping up to offer paid family leave options, such as California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York.

And many new parents who have paid sick days or paid vacation often try to save them up when they know a baby is on the way, though this can get a little tricky if you ever actually end up sick while you’re waiting for your little one. And parents who have just given birth may be eligible for short-term disability payments for time taken off from work to recover from childbirth.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an option for non-gestational parents, who are going through the same emotional changes and adjustments, but don’t face the same physical realities as people who have been through labor or are recovering from a c-section.

Some individual employers also offer parental leave benefits that you may be eligible for if you’re genetically related to your baby or if you or if your spouse will be their legal adopter.

The number of companies and states offering paid parental leave in the US is growing, but unfortunately it’s not uncommon for new families of all configurations to have to figure out how to do without it.

  • “FMLA (Family & Medical Leave).” DOL. United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. Accessed 12/6/17. Available at 
  • “What is FMLA? FAQ on Federal Leave Law.” FindLaw. Thomson Reuters, 2017. Web. Accessed 12/6/17. Available at 

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