Ever seen a courtroom full of balloons, with people taking pictures with a grinning judge?
Chances are, it’s an adoption case.
Unlike many legal scenarios, adoption is (usually) a very happy occasion. At Johnson/Turner Legal, we’re honored to assist with three primary types of adoptions:
- Step-parent adoptions
- Grandparent adoptions
- Adult adoptions
If you’re reading this, you might be considering formalizing what is surely already a strong relationship in your life. Perhaps you married someone who has children from a former relationship, and the other biological parent is not in the picture. Perhaps you’re a grandparent who has been caring for your grandchild because your adult child isn’t able to do so. Perhaps you’re a young adult whose biological parent isn’t part of your life, but you have an extraordinarily strong relationship with another adult.
For all intents and purposes, you’re already in a parent-child relationship.
So what difference does a piece of paper make? Why go through the extra steps to make it official? There are a number of reasons to formalize a relationship via a legal adoption. Here are a few of them:
Stability and security for the child. Many children come to the adoption process having endured a lot of turmoil. A legal adoption is permanent. It is a strong, public declaration of love and support. It says: “We belong to each other. Forever.” Temporary guardianship expires when the child turns 18, but formal adoption is a lifelong commitment.
A new beginning. In cases of temporary guardianship or informal caregiving, a previously absent biological parent could re-emerge and claim rights to a child. This presents a heart-wrenching scenario for many families. Formal adoption legally terminates the parental rights of the biological parent. In fact, at the time of adoption, adoptees are issued a new birth certificate featuring the name of the adoptive parent. This provides peace of mind and a fresh start. Adoptees also have the opportunity to legally change their name at the time of adoption, if desired.
Rights to inheritance. Inheritance laws provide that if there is no will, any inheritance follows the lineage of the family. A person is only in that line if they are related by blood or legally adopted. If you want to ensure that the child in your care would receive an inheritance, it helps to have a legally recognized relationship. This also applies to social security benefits and disability benefits. Your child can only make claims to collect your benefits if he or she has been legally adopted.
Opportunity for decision-making. Many of us take for granted that we can weigh in on our child’s education and health care. And yet, unless you are the legal parent, there are a number of institutions (schools and medical facilities among them) that will not recognize your input. This is frustrating for caregivers, and can even be dangerous. Formal adoption provides full parental rights and responsibilities. That means that everyone has to listen to you. (In spite of what a strong-willed child might assert!)
Adoption is not something to “dabble in.” It’s a happy occasion, but it’s also very serious. Again, adoption doesn’t just involve gaining parental rights—it also entails terminating someone else’s parental rights. There is a very specific procedure with clear steps to follow. There is also a lot of scrutiny to ensure that no one’s rights are being violated and the child’s best interest is at the forefront.
The entire adoption process typically takes around six months and involves background checks, a hearing, and a lot of legal legwork. If you’re considering going through the adoption process, it’s imperative that you work with an attorney who knows the letter of the law. The right attorney can seamlessly handle the behind-the-scenes work, letting you focus on your family. We offer our adoption services on a flat-fee basis so there are no surprises. And that fee pays significant return on investment when you take into account future inheritance or benefit opportunities—not to mention the priceless value of securing a child’s future.
At Johnson/Turner Legal, we don’t think of ourselves as creating families. The family is already there. We just help you put it on paper.