Finding a Lawyer: Part 2

It is only 10 days after my first discouraged post about lawyers, and I have a wealth of new information that makes me incredibly happy.

I got in touch with the LGBTQ Parenting Network (based out of Toronto), and a lovely health promoter spoke to me on the phone for almost an hour, sharing for free all the information that lawyers had been so withholding of. While he couldn’t give legal advice, he provided us with all of the information we needed to make our own informed legal decisions. Disclaimer: he called me while I was walking to school, so I wasn’t able to take notes as he talked. The info I have compiled below is from memory, and there may be some gaps.

Sperm Donor Agreement

  • Long story short, donor agreements cannot be counted upon to hold up in court. Also, it is really rare for donors and recipients to go to court – we just see the few bad cases in the news and don’t hear about the thousands of positive outcomes.
  • Donor agreements work really well as a soft contract between the donor and recipients. It is an opportunity to discuss all the details of the arrangement and make sure that everyone is on the same page and clear on intentions (to avoid any drama in the future that might lead to one of those rare court cases).
  • Donor agreements are not necessary (or even looked at) for declaration of parentage or second parent adoption.

Declaration of parentage

  • Most expensive option, need a lawyer for this.
  • Need to wait 7 days after birth to declare parentage.
  • Preferred by some because of the symbolism – you shouldn’t have to adopt your own child.

Second Parent Adoption

  • While the paperwork can be filled out before the baby is born, you need to wait 21 days after birth to file the paperwork. This is to protect vulnerable birth mothers who are putting their child up for adoption and need time to change their minds. But, the birth registration (needed to submit for the adoption) takes 3-4 weeks to arrive in the mail anyway, so you would be waiting regardless of this policy.
  • I think I heard that the donor can fill out his adoption consent forms in advance of the birth, so the 21 day wait could end before the birth and therefore the donor legally relinquishes any parental rights before the birth. If I am right about this, it assuages the concern that the donor would see the baby, be flooded with hormones, and change their mind. We don’t have this concern, but I am sure others do.
  • For the second parent adoption, both the donor and the birth mother need separate legal consultation. This is a one hour legal consultation for each person, and can be done by any family lawyer. The lawyer will go over a few points about family law that the donor and birth mother are required to know, and then witness the signing of the adoption contracts.
  • Then the two mothers file the paperwork in court. A law clerk will go over the documents to make sure everything is in order, saving the cost of a lawyer doing this general task. The whole filing in court process is FREE. F.R.E.E. Amazing. We just need to pay for 2 hours of legal consultation, which will run anywhere from $500-1000 (but I have quoted two local family lawyers at $200 and $240/hr, so we could be looking at the low end of that cost spectrum).

Full adoption

  • No different from the second parent adoption process except that you put both mother’s names on the form as “adopting”. This gives the family a document that says both mothers are the adoptive parents, instead of one being a birth mother and the other being adoptive other parent. This is a document that you can shove in people’s faces when they ask “who is the mother?”, or worse, “who is the real mother?”.

Parental Leave with Adoption

  • If second parent adoption is used, there is completely legitimate extra parental leave entitlements (verified as legit by EI representative).
  • How this works: Only the birth mother’s name is on the birth registration until nearing the end of her maternity leave. THEN the couple files for second parent adoption, changing the birth registration, and entitling the second parent to an additional full parental leave.

My wife and I have differing opinions on which option we should go with. Surprisingly, as the gestational mom-to-be, I am more concerned with being perceived as equal parents in the eyes of the law and society. I love the idea of full adoption, but my wife is afraid that not being able to easily prove that one of us is a birth mother will present its own complications (like if our child needed an organ donation or something and we didn’t want to waste time testing for a match). Clearly there is still research and discussion to be done around this decision, but the good news is, we don’t have to think about it until we have actually created a tiny little fetal life.

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