Our Adoption Story: Part 2

Once we decided to maybe pursue adoption I started to do my research. I had never heard of a stepparent adoption before. I didn't even know if it was possible or how I would go about getting it started. Not to mention - the cost.

The first thing I started to research was if this was even possible. I soon realized it was...but even under the worst circumstances it would be hard unless the other parent voluntarily signs the kids over. However there are some cases in which the courts will take rights away and give them to someone else: abandonment and lack of child support are a couple of them.

And it makes sense. I mean, if you have kids and you're not taking care of them and making sure they have food, shelter, and clothing, or if you have children and you don't see them - that's neglect.  As the custodial parent, if I didn't feed, house, or clothe the children, they would have been taken away. It's illegal to starve, abandon, and not provide housing or clothes.  So it's only fair that the non-custodial parent (the one who is supposed to pay support or has visitation) has the same consequences.

I believe in the state of Minnesota abandonment is considered lack of contact for 12 months. Don't quote me on that- I have zero experience in Family Law. That is just the research I found.

I connected on Facebook with a friend from high school whose sister went through this same process and a similar situation. We IM'd and I got a good feel as to how this all could go down. It was so helpful and really gave me hope that this was possible.

The cost of doing an adoption like this is similar to doing any other kind of adoption. I knew it would be hard to afford for us but luckily I work for a really great company and so does my husband. Both of our employers offer Legal Benefits and Adoption Cost Reimbursements. The benefit is something you need to enroll in during open enrollment. So once we knew we were going to try to move forward with this, we both enrolled. It's a flat fee we each pay per paycheck. I knew that even if this adoption didn't go through, I'd need help making sure that in the event of my death my kids wouldn't be split up and that any insurance policies or money left to them was in safe hands, so either way taking out the legal coverage seemed like a good idea for both of us.

After the first of the year it had almost been 2 years of no contact and child support arrears were growing and growing. We had the legal coverage in place so I started to look into the benefits and what it would cost. I also looked into the adoption reimbursement. The adoption reimbursement through my employer would not be eligible for this situation because I wasn't adopting anyone and that benefit didn't cross over to my spouse. When I spoke to HR and explained what we were doing, she had never had an employee ask that question and had to do some checking. But in the end it was determined that because I wasn't doing an adoption, it didn't count. Next I jumped online to the our legal benefit groups website. Right there it stated that they covered Step-Parent Adoptions! All the lawyer fees would be covered as long as I used an attorney in their network! So I printed a list of local attorney's and started down the list calling them all. Since I had talked to my high school friends' sister, I knew that it could be tricky to find a lawyer that would actually take a case like this. It tends to be messy and difficult. So I was nervous. I eventually found an attorney that specialized in Family Law but had never done a case like this. She did, however agree to take it on. We would have to pay filing fees, any fees related to notices being posted, and of course the fee to change documents and names. But that's it! This was definitely doable for us!

The lawyer took some information from me about our case and then we got started on it. It was slow moving at first. All of this stuff takes time. And because she was unfamiliar and I had no idea what to expect it seemed to move at a snails pace at first.

She needed as much information from me as she could get about me, the boys, their bio dad, and of course Rob. Rob would need a background check and any run-ins with the law would be dug up. And I mean, ANYTHING. She needed records of addresses from us, and anything I knew about their bio dad. She also needed arrears records and proof and records of any interaction we had with him - reaching out via phone calls, Facebook, email, anything. Any kind of effort on our parts (or the boys' parts) to try to get a hold of him. Also all my correspondence with the Child Support Office to make sure I was cooperative with them as well as The State of Minnesota.
 

The most important piece of this process was notifying their bio-dad that this was all in process. But first - we had to find him.

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