Lesbian adoption. (aka, all the shit we had to do to be a legal family)

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Well, I slept last night!! Despite the cat jumping over the fence and being unable to get back at ten – so I had to come back from the edge of sleep to watch babies while TMD chased the cat around. Then at midnight was double teething pain – 20 minutes of rock concert howling from both babies. Etc etc. I managed to fall back asleep through all these obstacles and feel like a different person today, though there’s no denying I’m still tired.

But the babies fell asleep reeeeally late last night – 10 pm. They normally sleep sometime between 6-7, 7:30 at the latest. This meant they slept in, which was super duper awesome as we had to leave quite early to meet with the adoption social worker about TMD adopting the babies.

For those not in the know, things in the country we live in are pretty good for the lesbian squad. If you have IVF in a fertility clinic, as we did, both mums get named on the birth certificate. Unfortunately, this law came into force when I was four months pregnant and there was no ‘backdating.’

That meant we have had to take a certain number of steps to protect TMD as their parent, and make sure our family is iron clad, legally. This is one of the reasons we chose to use an anonymous donor through the clinic rather than a known donor – known donors fuck up birth certificates, parental rights, and adoption proceedings.

So, what did we do?

When I was pregnant we both had extensive wills made. At their birth TMD had no real legal rights over them, so we needed to make sure that if I died in labour (morbid, but these things do happen and we needed to protect our family) she would get custody of the babies. These wills required us to think about who would get the babies if we both died, and other nice things to think about when you are heavily pregnant and very emotional. I’m glad we made them, though. Our wishes are in black-and-white.

Our next step was to get TMD parental responsibility. This means she has full legal power in regards to Snort and Coconut – she can make medical decisions, educational decisions, etc etc. It’s pretty powerful, legally binding (though very easy to get  – you just fill out some paperwork and get it stamped by a court officer. Anyone needing more info, I’m happy for you to get in touch and I’ll help you out…), and essentially makes someone have, well, the responsibility of a parent.

This has been useful because TMD has had to take each baby to the doctor’s on a few occasions without me there, and in theory she wouldn’t legally be allowed to do that without permission from me unless she had parental responsibility. In practice, her position as their mother has never been challenged. Our main doctor knows we’re a two mom family and is very pro-gay families, but even among other professionals it’s never been questioned. I am grateful for this, because it would hurt me to have her considered some sort of second class non-parent.

The final step is adoption. What this does is get TMD’s name put on their birth certificate.

Lots of people who are against the change in law are very upset about the whole two moms on the birth certificate thing. They say birth certificates are records of ‘natural’ parents and putting two women on them is against the will of god…and the queen….and the aliens watching over us. These are people who don’t understand the function of a birth certificate, in this country.

The names on the birth certificate are the legal, forever, iron clad parents of the child. Having your name on the birth certificate means you have all the rights and responsibilities of a parent, and it cannot be challenged. Ever. (I mean, assuming you are a good parent and not endangering your child.) It’s not just a piece of paper, it is a powerful document granting you the right to legally parent the child you love.

So we had an initial meeting with a senior adoption social worker today. The wait list for the process to get started is ‘well over a year.’ The process sounds like it will be very straightforward for us – no other party (aka known donor), etc etc. That being said, ‘straightforward’ will be five or six home visits from the social worker, a visit to me from a court worker to find out, essentially, if I really want to give TMD these rights, two visits to court, etc. We don’t anticipate any problems, but it is a bummer to think they might not be adopted until they are approaching three years old. That sounds so old to me right now.

We are going through the same process a step parent would, and in fact, it’s called ‘step parent adoption.’ The fact that we had a civil partnership (separate but equal, sigh) in effect when the babies were born did give TMD ‘step parent rights’ over them from birth, though neither of us knows what that really means.

There is no process for families in our situation, when they are being adopted by a person who has been their parent from the second they were conceived. And that’s unlikely to change, as the new law means future families won’t have to jump through any of these hoops.

Neither of us was nervous today – both of us have worked extensively with social workers in a professional capacity, so it felt quite natural to go into a big ass social services building for an initial interview. What was weird was going into a client interview room rather than into the staff section!

Neither of us is looking forward to a social worker coming into our home to evaluate the sort of parent TMD is, or to offer judgment on our family or parenting perspectives. Again, we have no reason to think things won’t go well, but it’s still an invasion into what is already a happy and functioning family. The senior worker we saw today kept remarking on how happy and settled the babies were, and complemented us for being such loving parents. That was nice. I hope the social worker we are eventually assigned (you know, in some time ‘well over a year’ away) is as cordial and friendly and accepting.

The babies having both of our names on that certificate is the first step towards us moving. We don’t know where we will move, or for certain what country we’ll end up in (country z?), but we know we’re not moving until TMD’s name is on that birth certificate, next to my name, right where it should have been from day one.

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6 Responses to “Lesbian adoption. (aka, all the shit we had to do to be a legal family)”

  1. Desiree Fawn Says:

    “They say birth certificates are records of ‘natural’ parents and putting two women on them is against the will of god…and the queen….and the aliens watching over us.”

    Made me giggle a little 🙂

    Thanks for writing this — very informative!

  2. catsandcradles Says:

    Well, congratulations on getting things started, at least! I find it rather unreasonable that it takes that long, though.

    Funnily enough, I should be on our future baby’s birth certificate from the get-go, but we still have to go through the second parent adoption process. (At least here it’s called second parent adoption, rather than stepparent adoption. Because I have nothing against stepparents, but that’s not what I’m going to be.) Otherwise my parental rights end at the state line, much the way our Registered Domestic Partnership does. (And I hear you on the separate but… well, distinctly unequal here, since the feds recognize neither our RDP or our marriage in Country C. *sigh*) At least we don’t have to have the home study part. Not that I don’t think we would pass, by any means, but I think we would both resent the intrusion that other (straight) families don’t have to face. We’d do it, but we’d resent it a bit, sort of the way I feel about having to do the whole second parent adoption in the first place.

    All of this also means we need to figure out who gets the baby if something happens to both of us. (Also morbid, yes, but I’ll feel better having it done and in black and white. Then it’s just one less thing to worry about, you know?) Oy. We need to meet with a lawyer.

    As far as the “natural parents” thing goes, doesn’t Country B issue a new birth certificate when a child is adopted? I mean flat out adopted, not “we’re jumping through extra hoops because we were a little too far towards the queer vanguard” adopted. Because I’m pretty sure that’s how it works here, and neither gods, queens, or aliens have smote anyone about it to my knowledge.

  3. Pshouseblog Says:

    Whew! I’m glad you guys are on the ride and hope it’s not bumpy, the music is cool, and that the operator doesn’t hit any wrong buttons 🙂

  4. Christina Says:

    I live in “country A”, and even though I’m in one of the very few places where same-sex marriage is legal, I still had to do the 2nd parent adoption process. I was on the original birth certificate (I’m not the birth mother), but that wouldn’t help me in the other states where same-sex marriage isn’t legal. And birth certificates don’t hold up in court nearly as well as actual adoption decrees do.

    On the positive side, I was able to deduct all the costs related to the adoption on my taxes because the federal government doesn’t recognize our marriage. 🙂

    • existere Says:

      See, this is why Country A needs to pull the stick out of its ass and make some federal rulings. It had to happen for women voting, and I think it has to happen for gay rights. Individual states recognizing marriage is fine up to a point, but what happens when you cross state lines? And certainly as far as immigration goes, no rights for our family will exist until gay marriage is legalized federally.

      But, yo, good job on the tax deduction front!

  5. catsandcradles Says:

    Christina: That is one deduction I am definitely looking forward to taking.

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