Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Second Parent Adoption in Maryland

I'll preface this post by saying that I am not a lawyer, I don't know how to get a 2nd parent adoption (also known as a gay adoption) in Maryland without a lawyer, and I don't know how to get a lawyer without paying said lawyer.  So with that information, you can decide whether this post is of any use to you.

The system of state law in the US makes it particularly challenging to figure out issues of family law.  Maps like this one from the Family Equality Council can only provide a starting point for understanding 2nd parent adoption in Maryland.  If you go to one of the national gay rights organizations looking for information about 2nd parent adoption in Maryland, you will likely find some version of "maybe it's possible."

The answer on the ground in Maryland is simple.  You hire a lawyer who knows something about 2nd parent adoptions, and regardless of the county in which you live your lawyer will file in the Baltimore City Circuit Court where all the judges have agree to approve 2nd parent adoptions.  This Baltimore Sun article gives more background on second parent adoptions in Baltimore City, as does this editorial in the Sun.  Jennifer Fairfax handled our adoption and we were very happy with her work.  Our portion of the work of adoption involved writing a check and collecting a bunch of documents-doctor's notes, financial statements, photographs (must include photo of your front door?!), and letters of support.  We also had to write some essays, which I seem to remember writing while on hospital bed rest with great resentment.  Getting the materials together took some time, and at times the whole process felt intrusive, but overall it was not hard-no need for a home study or anything like that.  It's not clear to me that anyone actually looked at our carefully compiled materials once they were sent to the court.

Because most of the 2nd parent adoptions in Maryland are filed in Baltimore City, adoption day in family court tends to be dominated by gay families.  In our case, because of LB's NICU stay, our court date was two weeks after LB came home (and her adjusted age was two weeks).  We were otherwise in quarantine, but we took LB to the courthouse in a cab that smelled as smokey as the 1970s and offered a distinct lack of safety features.  We made it through the metal detectors, and proceeded to family court where there were about ten lesbian couples, a few single ladies (sexuality unknown), and one straight couple.  We chatted with the lesbian couple sitting behind us with their gigantor three month old.  I proudly told one of the moms about LB, "she's  a preemie, she just came home!" The woman very kindly said, "Oh she is so cute!" while her eyes said, "yeah, no kidding she's a preemie." Our judge was borrowed from criminal court and seemed to thoroughly enjoy his sojourn in happy court.  Each parent or couple approached the bench individually with child, which took under a minute, and then the whole courtroom clapped for each family.

Understandably, most lesbian moms approach 2nd parent adoption day with a mix of happiness and anger.  It's great to have our relationships recognized by the law, but frustrating to have to pay and jump through hoops for the privilege.  We were the outliers with our entourage of three grandparents and one aunt, and our whole group crying tears of joy because we were so happy to have LB home and whole.

LB's whole first year we kept saying, "oh she used to look like such a preemie, but she doesn't anymore." Clearly she looks like such a preemie.

No comments:

Post a Comment