Wednesday, June 01, 2011

We are family, but we already knew that

It's June 1st again, which makes it "Blogging for LGBT Families" Day.  

As of last month, we are a family of four, at least in the eyes of our state.  A. is officially J.'s mother and we have the paperwork to prove it.  To be fair to our state, we were allowed to register J.'s birth with A.'s name as "Parent 2."  And we were up front about what we were doing.  Crossed out father on the state forms.  Attached a copy of our Canadian marriage license.  Had our attorney send a letter to the appropriate bureau.  Nonetheless, there's lots of advice floating around about having some sort of court decree to back up the birth certificate outside of the state that issued the birth certificate (e.g., this pdf at NCLR--it's for California, but the advice in the "Parenting" section applies generally).

Since we're in a different state than the one in which we completed E.'s adoption, there were differences in the procedure.  We waited a year so that we'd be able to follow the steps for a step-parent adoption (our state has a rule about the child living with the step-parent for at least a year first), instead of a more expensive and extremely invasive "stranger" adoption.  Even with all that, I had to meet with a social worker to present evidence that I understood that allowing A. to adopt J. creates a permanent relationship.  Something the judge reiterated.  I was good and simply responded, "I understand," instead of "That's kind of the point, isn't it?"

My in-laws were able to attend our hearing.  They were excited and a bit nervous, just like A. and me.  We knew this was supposed to be pro forma, but we couldn't help worrying something would go awry at the last minute.  After the fact, my mother-in-law made note of the anti-climax: "It doesn't change anything about the last fifteen months."  A. was not suddenly more of J.'s mother.  And as we noted to my in-laws, our main reason for going through this is to take care of the "what ifs"--those life-changing events we hope to avoid until the kids are adults with their own families and we've had many years of being doting grandparents.

I'm sure I've said this before--A. and I are thankful that we have the opportunity to provide a legal safety net for our family.  We understand the system enough to pursue this, we have enough money (or the ability to prioritize spending) to afford it, we are comfortable enough in our relationship to have the uncomfortable discussions about future possibilities.  But not everybody is in a position to do this, and their families shouldn't have to worry that an unfortunate event will further rip their family apart.

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