Lawyer Up

Q. Why won’t sharks attack lawyers?
A. Professional courtesy.

Q. What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand?
A. Not enough sand.

Q. What do honest lawyers and UFOs have in common?
A. You always hear about them, but you never see them.

Lawyer jokes are a dime a dozen. Fact is that most of the time you need a lawyer, it’s a bad time. You’re being sued. You’ve been arrested. You’re going through divorce procedures. You don’t know how those steroids ended up in your body.

Luckily up to this point in my life, I’ve never needed a lawyer. However, just recently we met with and retained our first. The difference is that our situation is going to be a happy occasion. At least it should be.

We met with him after work. He had taken advantage of an unreasonably warm spring day to golf, but made it back for our appointment. In a few months, we will have our court date to legally adopt our daughter. This does not happen in a vacuum, and steps need to be taken to make sure this takes place.

First, here is the situation now. Three days after birth typically (four in our situation), the birth parents signed the paperwork surrendering their rights to the child. The rights transferred to the adoption agency at that point. The agency places the child with us, sort of contracting the parenting out to us. To ensure we are doing a good job, the agency sends a social worker to check in with us once a month (Which we pay for. Yes, we pay someone to judge us). This is the situation today.

After meeting with the lawyer, he (by he, I mean his secretary) will file paperwork with the court for us to become the legal guardian of the child. This form will make it’s way back to our adoption agency, and they will sign it if they agree with it. (They typically do, but they are the legal guardian so they are not obligated to. For instance, if we were to seperate during this period, the agency could (and probably would) decide not to approve of the adoption). Once the agency signs that paperwork (and here it gets complicated, but this is how I interpretted what our lawyer told us), the judge now becomes the say all on the desination of the child.

Our court date cannot occur before six months post adoption. Our birthparents signed their paperwork on December 26th, so our court date can not occur until June 27th. However, late June is typically judge vacation season (typically signalled by the blooming of the Azalia Ajudgia), and the next week is 4th of July. Those in conjunction make for a screwy court schedule, so we put in to have the court date after the 9th of July. We shall find out soon when the exact date is.

Between now (now being when our adoption agency signs the paperwork, hopefully soon) and the court date, the arrangement is the same. We are the caretakers, and the adoption agency is the legal guardian. At the court date, the judge will decide if we are fit to be the legal guardians. We will present our case on why we should be the guardians.

Sounds intense, right? Well, our case will mostly be made before we arrive. The report that our social worker creates will detail what kind of parents we are, and if she recommends us as guardians. This outlines a majority of the case. The adoption agency will be there, and the judge will ask their opinion. The judge may ask us a few questions, but it typically is not intense. Most of the time, this court session is a joyeous occasion, the matching of a child who needs a guardian, and a loving couple (or single parent) who wants to bring them home. This should be our case.

We’ve heard stories about our judge. Typically, after the judgement is made, the adoptee and the adopters will join the judge up front for pictures of the new “official” family. These cases are usually his favorite, as he is joining people instead of dividing.

As part of the judgement, the name change will then be executed, and about 6 weeks afterwards we will have her new birth certificate in hand…listing us as her parents!

So, you can see there is a ton of legal stuff going on throughout this process, so having our own lawyer is essential. He will defend us if anything strange pops up, and will guide us through all the filings and procedures. For once, hiring a lawyer can be a sign of good times.

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