So, big news. This month, while traveling, we were able to complete a second-parent adoption. I am now Bram’s equal, legal parent. The state we live in (but in which we did not/could not do second parent adoption) will have to reissue my son’s birth certificate with my name on it. His new birth certificate should arrive in the next two months. My name will be on the “father” line, but it will be there.

I can’t tell you where we went to make this happen without jeopardizing this process for future families. All I can say is that we were informed of a judge in another state who is taking advantage of a loophole in that state’s adoption code to grand second-parent adoptions to queer families in other states. $5,000 + travel expenses + the invasion of a home study + lots of emotional turmoil later and we are in possession of a legally-binding adoption decree.

We have been told to be very (read: extremely. read: painstakingly) cautious with this information. If word got out to the media, this loophole could easily be shut down. Or the judge’s life could be threatened. I want to write about it here, though, because I know we have readers whose families are legally vulnerable. If that’s you, please write to me and I’ll private message you with details. We need to be very careful with this information, but I don’t want to be so careful that I keep other families for such necessary protections. So, this is how we’re handling it. I also don’t want to be completely silent because: I’m a legal parent now! This is a big, big deal, and it doesn’t feel fair that I should have to keep that fact a secret.

There’s also been some fallout to all of this. It’s complicated emotionally, and that’s the kind of thing that I bring here. First of all, spending that kind of money after seven total rounds of TTC + a sickening amount of medical bills after losing EE has been hard on us. Then there’s the home study. Ours went great: our social worker was AMAZING, and she never treated this like anything but a formality. In fact, since this seemed like the perfect chance to open up our family to adoption (since we were paying for the home study anyway), she made our conversations very much about future placement, and less about Bram. Still, someone came into my home to see if I’m a fit parent for my own child. This feels (is) degrading. Then there’s traveling for the purposes of adopting your own son. And the vulnerability of standing there before judge and attorney feeling (even if sweetly, lovingly so) scrutinized. There’s the “congratulations” that abound afterwards, which make you feel both happy and somehow hurt because you’re being congratulated on something you never should have had to do. It feels sweet. It feels insulting.

I hope to the gods I don’t sound ungrateful because I am full of gratitude. My son will see my name on his birth certificate. And I got to fight for him, which I’d do a thousand times over. He’ll know that: that I am always always always willing to fight for him. If gods forbid, anything ever happened to J, my place as B’s mama would not be threatened. I can sleep at night (you know, when he lets me). This adoption will be part of our family’s narrative, and I [mostly] love that fact. My wife was so sweet on the stand; she called me a “born mom” when asked if I was a good mother. Still, she was asked if I was a good mother. On the stand. In a courtroom. This is so much more complex than it seems at first glance.

I feel like I’m dealing with a lot of emotional fallout. Just like after the birth. Only, no one writes second-parent adoption stories the way they write birth stories. Maybe I should try: take the time to trace out the process, from that first phone call from our lawyer to reading the adoption decree on the plane home. Would that be of value to anyone?

Anyway, some photos. Here’s our last family photo, pre-adoption. Bram seems to be giving the whole notion the bird:


Also, J’s mom was able to travel there to be with us, which meant so much to all of us:



Finally, this is the first photo of us as a legal family of three, which we took with the retired judge who comes in several times a year just to do this. Just to do this. For families like ours. We live in a country with heroes:




18 thoughts on “legalities

  1. There is so much mixed up in these adoptions. I am so glad you were able to adopt Bram even though there’s no question you were his mother. The adoption to me was about fixing legal inequities, not about being G’s mother. And it was a joyful relief and really a fun day. But some of the questions stung for me too as did the homestudy (which was also really pleasant, but still…). The judge asked about my moral character and whether I was prepared for the financial responsibility of raising a child (after $30,000 to conceive – our money, borrowed and gifted – and $2,000 to adopt her the idea that I wouldn’t be prepared to give my every last penny to support G’s well being was absurd.)

    But even with all the strange insults of a second parent adoption, it is a privilege in our country and I know we are lucky. I’m so glad this judge is out there and thrilled you’ll get the birth certificate and are now Bram’s legal parent.

  2. Please do write about your story! I feel like there is such a lack of NGP stories out there… Please please write about it!

    Also… That judge looks just lovely. She seems like she could work at Hogwarts.

  3. I’m glad you were able to do it, even though we shouldn’t have to. Similarly to Olive, the second parent adoption we did was pretty standard in our blue state…just a nuisance really, and we had a fun celebration on the actual day. We also did not have to have the home study- our lawyer was able to get it waived. It did sting to have to fill out the paperwork and take all those extra steps, so I can just imagine how much harder it would be if things didn’t feel so overall supportive. Glad you are on the other side now. Beautiful pictures.

  4. I’m not sure if my previous comment went through! I can’t find an email address, but I am in great need of this info!



  5. “We live in a country with heroes.”

    She definitely is one, and I hope she knows it.

    As someone who hopes to be a NGP one day in the future, I would be grateful if you’d share more about this process. One of my favorite things about this blog is that you don’t shy away from things that are emotionally difficult. Thank you, for being willing to share those parts of yourselves with us. No matter what line your name is on, Bram is going to have the security of knowing that no one can come between him and his Mama, and that is worth celebrating.

  6. I think that part of the problem for me was the feeling that they who can giveth can also taketh away. That’s probably why I felt/feel that I have to constantly prove myself as a parent. Because our adoption was contested we had 2 social workers and 2 psychologists putting us under the microscope. No fun and yes, the emotional and legal gets all mixed up into a confusing mess. Something that should be, and was, cause for celebration also leaves a bitter taste in its wake.

  7. Is your judge a grandmother? If I could I would reach out and give her a hug. It’s “Women’s month” here in South Africa – this is the kind of woman with courage and integrity who should be a role model and celebrated instead of hidden away.

  8. Ours so far has been partly routine (hand over checks for various amounts, fill out forms), partly wonderful (our friend is doing the legal work for us, so we get more excuses to email), and partly ludicrous (checking for the ‘putative father’ was less galling for the waste of $40 than the waste of time). I’m also annoyed to have to do it, but grateful that here it is so routine. I know that before civil unions were legal here (and possibly still now) couples from the rest of the state were heavily encouraged to do their adoptions in Chicago since they would just go through quietly. Part of that was to ensure a successful adoption for the family, but the secondary reason was to not draw attention in their presumably more conservative counties, in case some jerkoff or other decided to make a big deal out of it and get a law written prohibiting same sex parents from adopting. One of the best things about the civil union law has been the change in birth certificates—Lynn got listed as Edie’s father/parent (like you said, not perfect) right away, and the clerks handing out copies at city hall don’t even blink twice when they ask you to name the second parent and you say another woman’s name. I also worry endlessly about some nameless hospital worker deciding not to honor the legal paperwork and keeping us from each other even after all this work. I’m glad you found a way, glad you get to be on your son’s birth certificate, and glad that you took the opportunity to get some really adorable family photographs!

  9. Thank you for sharing your story and congrats! It reminds me how grateful we are to live on a state that not only recognizes Ws role in our family (again due to a loophole we are glad to take advantage of) but also our marriage. Yeah!

  10. I found our second parent adoption brought up such a mix of feelings, much like the ones you describe. It was such a relief to be able to get legal protection for our little family. And infuriating to have to jump through all of these hoops just to have what so many other families take for granted. And fun to to get an Official Stamp of Parenting Approval. And terrifying to think that what has been given could also be taken away.

  11. “Maybe I should try: take the time to trace out the process, from that first phone call from our lawyer to reading the adoption decree on the plane home. Would that be of value to anyone?”

    Renee, I think your perspective on all parts of this parenting thing are immensely valuable, and none more so than the specifics of the non-bio/non-gestational parent role. I would welcome hearing about your experience.

    And congratulations! For making it through the process, and for being the kind of mama that would go through this difficult, ludicrous, and expensive formality for more protections for her son.

  12. First of all, I am so, so happy for your family that you are now recognized as Bram’s LEGAL parent, as there is no doubt that you have been his parent since before he was conceived.

    Secondly, though I’m not the one who needs to do this, I feel there needs to be an apology for putting your family through this ridiculous, humiliating process. I am outraged ever time I hear about a queer family having to go through second parent adoption. Reading these stories, I feel priviledged to live in a country where my rights as my son’s mother are not challenged (or would not be without valid reasons). Not that it should be considered a priviledge.

    These are feelings I will have to contend with on a personal level as Jen will need to adopt Sprout in the U.S. if we want her to have American citizenship, which we do as having Jen’s name as the second parent on Sprout’s Canadian birth certificate will not be recognized in your beautiful and backwards country.

    So, congratulations and appologies. Your family is beautiful. (And how exciting that things are lining up for a future adoption!)

  13. I like the different look for the blog, easier to read too.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of emotional fallout of events which, at least on the surface, should cause happiness and gratitude. There is no space where you can say hang on, I’m not fully on board here, let me express my conflicting emotions. You are just expected to get on with it and be glad. Well, it doesn’t really work that way, does it? Maybe social workers should be more sensitive to this and provide some counselling? What do you think?

  14. You are simply a beautiful family. In so many deep ways. Thank you for sharing such an important story. Thank you, though she may never hear it, to the incredible judge who puts doing what is right above everything else.

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