Articles Posted in Adoption

FloridaSeal.gifA Florida state law that banned gay men and lesbians from adoption has been struck down by the Florida 3rd District Court of Appeals in a unanimous decision that upheld a trial court ruling that the ban was unconstitutional because it violates equal protection under the law.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist said the state would cease enforcement of the ban immediately.

The case that brought the new ruling involved a gay foster parent, Martin Gill, who wished to adopt two boys who were placed in his care by the Department of Children and Families after they were removed from their home because of neglect. At the time, Florida law allowed gay men and lesbians to serve as foster parents and guardians.

Adoption.jpgRobert Lamarche has become the fourth gay Floridian to adopt a child as the 1977 Florida law prohibiting adoption by gay men and lesbians remains under review by a Miami appeals court, according to a story in the Palm Beach Post.

Lamarche, who works at a private adoption agency in Fort Lauderdale, was approved as an adoptive parent by Broward County juvenile court Judge Hope Bristol, who said that Lamarche’s adoption of a teenage boy he has fostered for two years is in the minor’s best interest. She also wrote that the 1977 Florida law is unconstitutional, and the state is not objecting to her ruling.

Lamarche, who has a master’s degree in social work, met his adopted son four years ago, when the boy was 11 and had been moved from foster home to foster home as the result of abuse and neglect. After two years of watching the boy being moved around, Lamarche was given permission to serve as a formal mentor.

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Pursuant to Florida Statute sec. 63.053: Rights and Responsibilities of an Unmarried Biological Father, “If an unmarried biological father fails to take the actions that are available to him to establish a relationship with his child, his parental interest may be entirely lost, or greatly diminished.” Thus, as an unmarried biological father of a child, you have no parental rights until you establish paternity of the child.

Under Florida Law, the interests of the state, biological mother, the child and possible adoptive parents outweigh the interest of an unmarried biological father who does not take timely action to establish paternity. If you do not file a claim of paternity before the date a petition for termination of parental rights is filed, you are barred from filing your paternity claim under Chapter 742.

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Adoption is a legal procedure where a child becomes, through court action, part of a family that is other than that of his or her biological parents. Adoption is a very serious procedures – all ties are severed with the birth parents and any relatives of the birth parents. The adopted child is permanently transferred into the adopting family and the adopting family takes on the sole responsibility of care for the child.

Adoption will generally mean that the birth parents relinquish all their rights pertaining to the adopted child – this includes the right to see or otherwise be involved in the child’s life. However, in an open adoption, birth parents retain the right to see and communicate with their child and the adopting parents take on the full responsibility of providing the child care and fulfilling the financial needs of the child. Basically, to the adopting parents, an adoption means that they have the same obligations of parents to the child as a child naturally born to them.

Who is eligible for a Florida adoption? Any minor (a person under 18-years of age) present within the state of Florida when the petition for adoption is filed. Sibling groups may also be adopted together in Florida. Adults may also be adopted with a similar procedure to that of minors.

Who may adopt a child in the state of Florida? Any adult who lives and works in the state, is of good character and has the ability to nurture and provide for the child. Single adults, married couples and step-parents may adopt.

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Adoption.jpgFor a Florida stepparent adoption to take place, one of the biological parents must relinquish their parental rights to the adopting stepparent. The adopting stepparent is then assigned all the legal rights and responsibilities of a biological parent.

If the child is over the age of 12, he or she must consent to the adoption by the stepparent and will be interviewed by the court prior to signing a consent form.

If the birth parent does not consent – or cannot be found to provide consent – the stepparent adoption may be allowed to proceed if you can prove:

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It wasn’t too long ago that Americans regularly sought foreign adoptions because they were easier and less costly than adopting an American child. But three of the most popular countries for foreign adoption are changing the rules, and making it harder for Americans to adopt oversees.

China, Russia and Guatamala have scaled back or even halted foreign adoptions as they try to improve their internal accountability, and at the same time these countries have made eligibility requirements stiffer than ever. China, for example, will deny an adoption based on a prospective parents’ body mass index (BMI).

The price has also risen to as much as $40,000, which is twice what it was just ten years ago. Industry insiders say that it has never been harder for Americans to adopt children from overseas. In fact, the number of children adopted internationally was cut in half in the five years between 2004 and 2009.

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When an infant relative of Vanessa Alenier was seized by child welfare workers, Ms. Alenier took the child into her home. However, when she asked Florida for permission to adopt the boy, a question on the adoption forms gave her pause. It asked if she was gay. Not wanting to begin her parental journey with a lie, she reported to the state that she is indeed gay, even though she knew that Florida has a thirty three year old law banning gays from adopting.

Even as a Miami appeals court was seeking to determine the constitutionality of the ban, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Sampedro-Iglesia approved the adoption – the third such adoption by a gay couple to be approved in Florida in the last year and a half.

Sampedro-Iglesia wrote in her order that, “there is no rational connection between sexual orientation and what is or is not in the best interest of a child. The child is happy and thriving with [Alenier]. The only way to give this child permanency . . . is to allow him to be adopted [by her].” She also declared in her ruling that she believed the law to be unconstitutional.

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Linda and David Pfeiffer of New London, Connecticut already had an adopted son, Darius, and they were not looking to have another child. But when a family friend from Jacksonville, Florida became pregnant and did not believe she was able to care for the child herself, she asked if the Pfeiffers would raise her child. Linda and David agreed, and they adopted Reylani soon after she was born. As part of the process, they flew to Florida and met with an attorney and had the birth parents sign a termination of parental rights.

It was only two weeks later that Linda Pfeiffer received a text message from the child’s birth mother, saying that Reylani’s biological father might actually be a different man. That man filed a paternity suit in Jacksonville Circuit Court and had his paternity confirmed with a DNA test. According to Florida law, a father must assert his paternity by filing the Florida Putative Father Registry Claim of Paternity claim before the child is born. Normally, this man would have no case. However, the child’s biological father is in the Navy, and he is arguing that he should retain his rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which allows service members certain legal protections when they are on active duty. According to the Pfeiffers, the biological father knew that the mother was pregnant and was not at sea during the pregnancy, meaning he had ample opportunity to file for paternity during the legal window. The birth mother and biological father have since married.

In March a judge awarded custody to the biological parents, and the Pfeiffers were required to hand her over to them. The couple has since turned the Pfeiffers away when they flew to Florida in hopes of seeing Reylani. The Pfeiffers have filed an appeal to a panel of three judges, and are awaiting final word on their case. If you have questions regarding your rights as a biological parent or an adoptive parent in Florida you should contact a Florida Family Law Attorney.

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In a move designed to help Haitian children orphaned in the devastating 2010 earthquake enter the US more easily for medical care and/or adoption, the US Government eased the requirements for their temporary entry to the US. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, made the announcement, adding that the US is still committed to helping reunify families that have been torn apart by the disaster.

Under the plan, children with no surviving family may be eligible for adoption by US families and will be granted an expedited humanitarian parole. Humanitarian parole is an option that can be exercised by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to allow otherwise inadmissible individuals to enter the country for urgent humanitarian or other emergency reasons.

The US State Department has confirmed that approximately three hundred American families had already stepped forward to adopt orphaned Haitian children before the earthquake; twenty four of the cases were close enough to completion that those children have already been brought to the US and given over to their new families. The other pending cases are being reviewed individually to see if the process can be expedited. Any family who was in the process of adopting a Haitian child and would like further information can email askci@state.gov for more information.Florida residents who are interested in adoption should contact a Florida family law attorney.

Newborn.jpgAmy and Scott Kehoe were unable to have children of their own. So they went to great lengths to hand pick an egg donor, sperm donor, and surrogate for their future child. They then hired a Michigan IVF clinic to carry out the procedure. The couple paid for everything out of pocket. But a month after the surrogate gave birth to twins, Ethan and Bridget, the Kehoes were forced to turn the children back over to the surrogate mother, Laschell Baker, who changed her mind about turning over custody of the children when she found out that Ms. Kehoe was under treatment for a mental illness. Ms. Baker, who already has four children of her own with her husband Paul, said she couldn’t live the rest of her life worrying whether Ms. Kehoe’s illness would remain under control.

Surrogacy is largely unregulated, and is controlled mostly by fertility doctors. In some states, the parents must legally adopt the surrogate child, but it creates an interesting legal conundrum, as the parents must first create the baby, which is not genetically related to them, and then ask the courts to grant them custody after the child is born. In other states, the parents are allowed to place their own names on the birth certificate without any screening, if they obtain a pre-birth order allowing it.

If a dispute arises, the outcome varies widely from state to state. In Michigan, the state holds that surrogacy is contrary to public policy and that surrogacy contracts are not enforceable, which is how Ms. Baker so easily had the Kehoe’s guardianship rescinded. Find out more about this child custody case and others like it at Building a Baby, With Few Ground Rules.

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