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The happy and complex realm of private adoptions

There are advantages to legally adopting a partner's child – although the practice appears to be uncommon, family lawyer Audrey Shecter tells AdvocateDaily.com

Shecter, a lawyer with Beard Winter LLP and the only lawyer at the firm work on private adoptions, accepts what she considers relatively rare cases when a spouse chooses to adopt the partner’s child, including cases when the child was conceived in a fertility clinic. 

“The advantage is the child is your child as opposed to having to engage in possible future custody disputes,” Shecter tells the online legal news outlet. “And, you can give a child conceived in a sperm bank a parentage whereas they previously didn’t have one.”

As well, the child’s last name can easily be changed as part of an adoption application.

“One of the major differences between an adoption and a custodial order is an adoption severs all ties with biological parent and his or her family,” Shecter adds. “It’s as if that relationship never happened.”

Adoption applications are highly technical, co-ordinating independent legal advice, affidavits and other timely documents, she says. The level of difficulty can increase with adoptions involving children conceived in fertility clinics.

In one of Shecter’s cases, a clerk declined to submit documents because there was no affidavit from the child’s biological father. But that child had been conceived in a sperm bank.

Shecter was at a loss, since there essentially was no father to swear to an affidavit. She eventually convinced the clerk to send the documents to the judge, who did not find the absence of an affidavit from a biological father in the circumstances to be an impediment. 

Other possible complications can arise if the biological parent lives in another jurisdiction.

“The lawyer can prepare the affidavit but the biological parent giving consent to the adoption has to have it sworn, and he or she may not want to comply or spend any money to do that,” Shecter says.

Another aspect of private adoptions is children older than the age of 7 must seek independent legal advice. The representative can’t be the same person as the adoptive parent’s lawyer, she says.

Despite the challenges, Shecter considers adoptions to be one of the brightest sides of her practice, which includes all aspects of family law, including property and custody disputes.

Shecter recalls an adoption when the judge allowed a big crowd of family and friends to bring cameras into the courtroom, which is normally sealed for such occasions, as the adoption was granted.

“They took pictures and the judge posed with them,” Shecter says. “It made me think as a family lawyer, I’ve got to keep doing this. This is happy law.” 

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