NJ Governor Vetos Bill to Amend Birth Certificates for Transgendered Individuals

In August of 2015 Governor Christie vetoed a Bill which had passed the New Jersey House and Senate that would have allowed individuals to obtain an amended birth certificate due to a change in sex. Under the current law, in order to obtain an amended birth certificate an individual must have undergone sex reassignment surgery. The amendment to the Bill would have allowed the birth certificate to be amended if the person requesting it could submit documentation from a licensed health care professional showing that the person had undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition based on contemporary medical standards. The legislature in passing the Bill recognized that some transgendered individuals may not be able to afford reassignment surgery or that their plans do not include such surgery but they still live each day as the gender with which they identify. Without this amendment the result would be that these individuals would have government documents and all identification cards indicating their gender which is not consistent with who they are. This means that if an individual is transgendered it would necessarily be disclosed to that person’s employer, schools, or any other organization or individual requiring these forms of identification. The concern is that this could lead to further discrimination.

Currently New York and Hawaii have passed such Bills. Although this amendment was supported by the New Jersey State Bar Association and passed by the New Jersey House and Senate, it was vetoed by the Governor. This likely will be introduced again at the next legislative session or when a new Governor is elected.

Expansion of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000

The Statue of Liberty
In 2000 the Child Citizenship Act was passed which granted automatic US citizenship to children who were adopted abroad. Unfortunately the Act did not apply retroactively and therefore children who were already 18 when the Act went into effect would not obtain automatic US citizenship. This had many negative effects and as such Senators Jeff Merkley (D-RN) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have co-sponsored an amendment to the Child Citizenship Act to grant such automatic US citizenship retroactively.

The Risks Involved with Open Adoptions

The-Risks-Involved-with-Open-Adoptions

In an open adoption, everyone involved in the process knows the identity and location of everyone else. A birthmother will have regular communication with adoptive parents before the adoption and this can typically continue after the placement, in the form of letters, birthday cards, e-mails, telephone calls and visitation. An open adoption can provide both adoptive and birth parents with greater reassurances that the adoption will be in everyone’s best interests, but there are also a number of drawbacks.

Concerns for Adoptive Parents

There are a number of potential challenges for adoptive parents when the location and identities of all parties are known:

  • Adoptive parents can easily be manipulated because of a fear of not getting the child. This can lead to significant expense if the birthparent becomes manipulative and asks for money to cover cost of living and other items.
  • The relationship will be ongoing—If everyone is a healthy adult, this may not be a problem. But if the birthmother is emotionally unstable and knows who you are and where you live, you’ll face challenges the rest of your life.
  • You may add an unwanted member to your family—The birthmother may assume that, because her child is a part of your family, she is too. She may show up unannounced or assume that she’ll be part of family gatherings.

Concerns for Birth Parents

Birth parents also face challenges related to open adoption proceedings:

  • The birth mother may be afraid to change her mind when she knows the adoptive parents personally, either because of concerns about the emotional commitment or financial investment of the adoptive family
  • The birth mother can also be manipulated by adoptive parents, who can make demands based on the amount of money they are spending or the argument that they are providing the child with a good home

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

The Potential Benefits of an Open Adoption

The-Potential-Benefits-of-an-Open-Adoption

For centuries, adoption was something that wasn’t discussed outside courtrooms and adoption agencies. Birth parents and adoptive parents never met, did not know each other’s identities, and had no ongoing relationship. With the concept of open adoption, all that has changed. It’s not necessarily the best option for everyone, but here are the potential advantages of an open adoption.

Benefits for Birth Parents

As a birth parent, you want to choose the best situation to place your child. The more you know about potential adoptive parents, the better decision you can make. With an open adoption, you can meet adoptive parents, ask them all the questions you need answered, and have the confidence that you are doing the right thing. In addition, you have the opportunity to maintain a meaningful relationship with your child as they grow up. Accordingly, you can formulate an adoption plan with confidence, knowing that your child will be in good hands.

Benefits for Adoptive Parents

One of the most difficult parts of the adoption process for adoptive parents can be the sense that you have no control over any part of the process. With an open adoption, you get to participate in the matching process. If the birthparent chooses you, you can have a strong sense of validation, that you are doing the right thing. You’ll have the ability to learn about your child’s family medical history, and will have a contact person, should issues arise as your child gets older.

Benefits for Adopted Children

Adopted children can also benefit from knowing both adopted and birth parents. They’ll have a stronger sense of personal identity knowing their birth parents, and will have fewer unanswered questions about why they were adopted. In addition, there won’t be unfounded fantasies or imaginings about birth parents.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Pennsylvania Woman Loses Surrogacy Contract Appeal

Pennsylvania Woman Loses Surrogacy Contract Appeal

A Pennsylvania woman who entered into a gestational surrogacy agreement with her then-husband and a gestational surrogate has been declared to be the legal mother of the child. The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the ruling of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in mid-November, ruling against actress and television personality Sherri Shepherd.

According to court documents, Shepherd and her then-husband, Lamar Sally, sought out reproductive surrogacy services shortly after their marriage in 2012. They were matched with Jessica Bartholomew, who carried the child to term. Shepherd and Sally filed court documents to have them named as parents on the child’s birth certificate, but Shepherd refused to sign the documents, citing marital difficulties. Bartholomew then asked the court to enter an order declaring Shepherd and Sally to be the legal parents. Shepherd claimed that the gestational surrogacy contract was unenforceable, but the trial court disagreed, as did the Superior Court.

In her appeal, Shepherd claimed that Pennsylvania law does not allow “parentage by contract” and that the surrogacy agreement could therefore not be enforced. The Superior Court rejected that argument, citing Ferguson v. McKiernan, where the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed an oral agreement between a mother and a sperm donor to be enforceable. The court concluded that the surrogacy agreement had full force of law, and that Shepherd’s failure to sign documents designating her as legal parent were in breach of that agreement.

Counsel for Lamar Sally told the court that Sally has been raising the child as a single parent since birth and that Shepherd has had no contact with the child.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail .

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Domestic or International Adoption?

Domestic-or-International-Adoption

You know that you want to adopt a child. Your next decision—should you adopt domestically (within the United States) or internationally. Here are some of the key issues to consider.

The Cost

Cost used to be much more of a consideration when deciding whether to adopt in the United States or through a foreign country, but that’s not so much the case anymore. With a domestic adoption, you can expect to spend anywhere from $20,000 to $35,000, as a general rule. With an international adoption, the bottom end can be lower—as little as $15,000—but the top end can be higher—as much as $50,000. It all depends on what country you choose. The costs are typically more predictable with a foreign adoption, as you generally don’t pay medical or living expenses for a birthmother. You face financial risks either way, as a birthmother may change her mind after you’ve incurred costs or a country may close its borders to adoption.

Contact or Communication with Birth Parents

If you want your child to have knowledge of and a relationship with birth parents, you’ll want to adopt domestically. If, on the other hand, you don’t want an ongoing relationship with the birthmother, an international adoption will typically accomplish that objective.

The Process

With a domestic adoption, there’s usually far more uncertainty in the process. It’s typically a matching process, where you put your profile out and prospective birthmothers review your profile and choose you. With most international adoptions, you are bringing home a child from an orphanage, so the “courtship” between birth parents and adoptive parents never takes place. There’s a waiting list and you get in line on the waiting list. With some countries, you can often know within a month or so of the exact date you’ll travel to bring home your child.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

More State Legislatures Looking at Surrogacy Laws

More State Legislatures Looking at Surrogacy Laws

New York and Washington, DC are two of just a few states that outlaw commercial surrogacy and are considering new legislation that would allow women and couples to pay a third party to carry a child for them.

In Washington, DC, Councilmember Charles Allen introduced the Collaborative Reproduction Act of 2015, calling the nation’s capital “out of step” with its own commitment to family and equality. Allen says his proposed statute includes input from a broad spectrum of interests, such as the Family Equality Council and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

In New York, legislators are waiting for recommendations from a task force, looking at whether they should overturn former governor Mario Cuomo’s 1992 ban on commercial surrogacy. State Senator Brad Hoylman, an openly gay father thanks to surrogacy, has introduce a bill that would allow surrogacy agreements in the state. Opponents argue that nothing has changed since the 1992 ban and the laws should stay as they are. They contend that allowing commercial surrogacy transforms children into products to be bought and sold.

Currently, there is little uniformity in state laws governing surrogacy contracts. Eight states expressly permit the practice, including Oregon, which has become a destination for individuals and couples worldwide to travel to enter into an agreement with a gestational surrogate. Other states allowing surrogacy include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Nevada and Rhode Island. California even allows the parties to avoid any adoption proceedings.

Aside from New York and DC, three other states specifically ban the practice, New Jersey, Michigan and Washington state. Lawmakers in New Jersey approved a commercial surrogacy law last June, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill, saying he was not satisfied with how legislators had dealt with the details of the practice.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Talking With Your Adopted Child about Their Adoption

Talking-with-Your-Adopted-Child-about-Their-Adoption

When you adopt a child, you hope that the life you give that child will be as normal as possible. For some adoptive parents, talking to your adopted child about their being adopted can jeopardize that sense of normality, but experts say it’s essential for the well-being of your child. Chances are pretty good that they’ll find out somehow, and it’s always best that they learn it from you and that it be a positive experience. So what’s the best way to help your adopted child understand the whole concept.

Start Early

The earlier you openly discuss the fact that your child was adopted, the easier it will be for everyone involved. Your child will grow up with an understanding of the language of adoption. It will also help you get used to the words, and fine tune your use of language while they are still in the developmental stage.

Don’t Tell Them More Than They Can Understand

For a very small child, it’s probably more appropriate to use the language of a story. Be certain you are speaking to the listening of your audience. If your child is four years old, you need to use a style and words that make sense to a four-year-old. Often, because the story is so much a part of their lives, kids stop asking a lot of the questions as they grow older. But if questions persist into their teens, you can have a more adult conversation with them.

Tell the Truth

It’s common for adoptive parents to want to make everything positive. Don’t make up stories about birth parents or attribute motives when you don’t know what they are. Stick to the facts as much as you can, but remember that small children may not fully understand the facts. Don’t tell them more than they can understand.

Be Willing to Have the Conversation as Often as Necessary

Adoption is a complicated process, and even more so for the child. You won’t answer all their questions in a single conversation.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

New Jersey Adoption Rates Stabilizing

New Jersey Adoption Rates Stabilizing

Adoption officials in New Jersey say there is cause for optimism, based on statistics gathered by the non-profit agency Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ). Though the number of children reported as adopted in the state actually decreased from 2012 to 2013, Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of ACNJ, said there were indications that New Jersey has made significant progress in moving kids from foster care into permanent homes. Specifically, Zalkind said that the number of children in foster care who are not returned to their parents or legally adopted has declined markedly.

New Jersey officials readily admit that adoption from the foster care system is a precarious situation. As a general rule, children who go into foster care are considered to be there only until such time as they can be safely returned to their parents. As a consequence, parents who are looking to adopt rarely look to the foster care system, as they fear that they will incur time and money in the adoption process, only to have the child returned to his or her parent.
Zalkind said that New Jersey officials have worked hard to implement adoption options earlier in the lives of children in foster care. She acknowledged that the older the child in foster care, the more challenging it can be to find an adoptive parent, and the less likely that the child will ever leave the system.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

How to Tell Your Child about Adoption

Telling Your Child that He or She is Adopted

At some point, your child may look in the mirror and conclude that he/she doesn’t look anything like you or your spouse, and come to you with the question “why”? If that happens, you have waited too long to disclose to them that they are adopted. But when is the right time and how do you do it? It’s one of the most challenging issues for adoptive parents.

The Best Advice—Start Early

Most experts agree that it’s best to introduce the topic of adoption at an early age. First of all, this reduces the risk that the child will learn from a friend or family member. In addition, even though they won’t fully understand what it means, it will become their frame of reference, and will have less of an impact as they mature and come to fully understand what it means.

Be Positive about Everyone and Everything Involved

Don’t tell your child that you rescued them from a life of poverty, want, danger or abandonment. Keep the story simple, and portray everyone in a positive light, including birthparents. Make certain that your adopted child knows that they were loved by birthparents, and that they are loved by you.

Portray the adoption as a positive thing. Tell your child how excited you were when they came to live with you, and how happy it made their birthparent that you would be well-cared for.

Use Things That Your Child Understands to Tell the Story

There are a lot of great books about adoption that are specifically designed for adopted children. You can also use other books, videos, their favorite movie or other story. Talk to them about moms and dads, show them early pictures of themselves and pictures of their birthparents, if you have any.

Don’t Just Tell Them Once, But Don’t Beat a Dead Horse

Don’t view it as something that you told them, so you won’t ever have to talk about it again. It may not sink in, so you’ll have to revisit the subject. Do so in an easy way, though, as if it’s not a big deal. If you have a children’s book on adoption, you can read it to the child periodically for a few months. Don’t expect the child to understand with a single discussion.

Be Prepared for Any Type of Response

Your child may have little or no response when you tell them, but have questions later. You’ll have to be very patient and observant. Your child may act out during play, or may ask you over and over to explain the adoption to them. Your child may have any of a range of emotions, from confusion to sadness to anger. You have to let them express their feelings and try to talk about them.

Contact Our Office

To set up an appointment, call us in Haddonfield at 856-429-5005 or in Woodbury at 856-845-2555. We can also be reached in Philadelphia at 215-563-2150 or
by e-mail. For clients with personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, we offer a free initial consultation, and will represent you on a contingency basis, only charging attorney fees if we recover compensation for you.

Our offices are open weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Weekend and evening appointments may be arranged upon request. We will also come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.