Dear friends, it has been just over 10 months since our last contact – – – Wow.
There’s reason for it for sure, as life has been a true ride since then. Honestly, not a very sweet and lovely ride, but a hard and painful (albeit evolutionary) one for our family. So much to share and catch up on that it has been overwhelming just to think about where and how to start. But, I will leave the catch up thang for just a little bit later. Just know that there are serious plans to sit our selves down, turn on the camera, and give a real update ASAP. It’s coming.
For now, I would like to share happy news. Firstly, yesterday October 10th was Ella Lynn’s second birthday. This means that Ollie’s birthday was 5 weeks ago, September 6. We have two year olds now! There are endless amounts of gushing that could be produced concerning this journey and celebration, like any parent. But that is not my mission this evening.
Instead, I would like to discuss the dynamic that having two children from different moms, with a shared father, and what that means in the legal world in regards to parenting. Basically, the moms (Dani and Melinda) have automatic rights and are legally mothers of their “womblings” (Ella and Ollie, respectively). Additionally, Jon has automatic paternal rights to both of the babes, which has proven a helpful link when the “real parent” is needed in certain situations. Echem.
That’s right. There are situations where my identity as Ollie’s mom is not valid, because he didn’t come from my body but from my wife’s. And vice versa for her, despite the length of our marriage (domestic partnership), the fact that we were present since conception and through their first breaths til now, or that we each breast fed both babes. To be fair, we haven’t encountered this challenge too many times but we don’t like it. And of course there are so many “what if’s” concerning health and “the-system” related possibilities for the future. So the plan has always been to legally adopt each other’s womblings.
Luckily and cosmically, the Governor of California approved the SB 274 in October of 2013 – mere months before the babies were conceived. The legal lingo from the bill is:
This bill would authorize a court to find that more than 2 persons with a claim to parentage, as specified, are parents if the court finds that recognizing only 2 parents would be detrimental to the child.
Under Section 1 of this bill stands a very powerful description that will provide for our case I believe:
(a)Most children have two parents, but in rare cases, children have more than two people who are that child’s parent in every way. Separating a child from a parent has a devastating psychological and emotional impact on the child, and courts must have the power to protect children from this harm.
This law isn’t a very well known one, but it is there. And it is our ticket to all three parents being legally what we are in real life – parents. Well, it’s been talked about since the babies were born, but about 8 months ago I really felt a passion to make it happen. I dove into researching adoption and found that there is something called a “Step Parent Adoption” that “easily” allows for legal step parents, including domestic partnerships, to adopt the child of their spouse without a lot of legal battle. Thus, I completed two versions of the required paperwork – one for my adoption of Oliver and one for Melinda’s adoption of Ella Lynn. A process…as I’m sure you can imagine.
Those completed packets have been gathering dust in my to-do pile as life has rushed around like a tsunami of work, school, babies, emotional upheaval, and all that. I’ve been waiting for a day when all three adults could make it to the courthouse, an impressive scheduling feat. We did that about a month ago, but ended up going to the wrong courthouse so it was postponed further…that is…until today.
Today! October 12, 2016. We finally filed the adoption paperwork! Oh, what a relief to have those stacks gone-away. But alas, it’s not a simple as stamping “FILED” on the documents. There are still several more steps…including the inevitable challenge we face…no one knows about SB 247.
Specifically, our sweet tribe of 5 bumbled our way into the correct courthouse and eventually found our way to the correct window and clerk. As I proudly turn over the two packets explaining “We are filing for two step parent adoptions”, the clerk looks over the first few pages.
“And you are, I’m sorry?”, she gently requests
“And Melinda is…*I point to her*…your partner?”
“And Jonathan is…”
*I point to him* “The father of both, yes.”
“Ok, I’m assuming he has a signed consent?”, she follows up with.
Then you could see her process a bit deeper, but still produce the standard response…”To give up his paternal rights.”
“Ummm…that’s definitely…not what we’re doing.” I stammer.
“Well…you can…only have two parents.” I think she’s seeing how this is going to go, as our two toddlers scurry around with both Melinda and Jon indiscriminately as I handle the paperwork.
“Uhhh…” I look at Melinda who is the most knowledgeable when it comes to SB 247. She takes it from there.
The clerk seemed rather at peace and professionally supportive of our situation, repeating that she has never dealt with a situation like this and would need to talk to her director. She wrote down the Bill and gracefully filed our 8 month old documents. She reported that the next step is to wait for packets in the mail that will request further documents like birth certificates and domestic partnership proof.
I imagine that there may be a need to attend court as well, being that the Bill states “if the court finds that recognizing only 2 parents would be detrimental to the child.” You can betcha’ booty we’ll be ready for that one. And I’m feeling that a little public light shined on this situation may very well be a powerful tool for others that may be in somewhat similar situations!
So for now – a huge step forward to an incredibly important goal we have had for a long time.
P.S. For those interested in having conversations about Privilege, as I often do in my schooling these days…this is an opportunity to consider one’s Straight Privilege. Most male-female couples are not required to go through the process of “proving” their parental rights or their marriage for that matter. True we are taking this one step further to include three parents, not just a same-sex couple…but perhaps that gives yet another opportunity for Privilege examination…Monogamy Privilege. Hmmm…interesting. For more about what Privilege means, check this quick youtube video out.