our adoption story #8: the finalization hearing and making it official

Today, I’m writing about our adoption finalization hearing. Adoption takes many, many steps. The general process for infant adoption goes:

I’ve linked my previous posts about the steps in the process. Of course, feel free to comment or send me and email if you have questions about the adoption process.

Almost two years ago, we had a hearing to bring the legal process of adoption to a close. I say the “legal process” because adoption itself is never over. It’s a lifelong journey filled with feelings for all parties involved.

Due to the pandemic, our hearing took place over Zoom. In addition to our family, our adoption caseworker and the magistrate were present for the hearing. In non-pandemic times, the hearing would have taken place at the courthouse and we would have been able to have pictures and such. But that didn’t happen for us. Instead, we were fortunate to have Justin’s mom visiting at the time so she was able to be in the room with us.

Despite the hearing being virtual, I still insisted that we all dress up. It was a celebratory hearing, but a serious one and I wanted our outward appearance to reflect that. Sumner didn’t care about the hearing in the slightest. He actually slept through most of it. It was like he already knew the outcome and had more important things to do.

The hearing was straightforward. First, our caseworker summarized the facts of the case with details about her impressions of us as people and parents. Then, the magistrate interviewed each of us separately. She asked about how the first six months of parenting went for us and commended us for taking on a NICU baby. The most interesting part was when we asked us if we thought we were of “good moral character.” I mean, who would say no to that? She made sure that we understood that with the approval of the adoption that Sumner would be our child legally, should we separate or divorce that child support may be ordered, and, in the event of one or both of our deaths, he would be entitled to inherit. Pretty standard stuff that she needed to be sure that we were aware of.

All in all, it was a 30 minute hearing that ended up with Sumner becoming officially part of our family.

Afterwards, we went on with our usual day. We went for a walk and mom took some more pictures for us to commemorate the day.

For all of the stress and anxiety caused by needing to wait for hearing, it was a fairly straightforward and easy thing. With it, we got to complete our family. What we didn’t know was that getting all our paperwork sorted out after would be a bit of a headache.

Some of the paperwork process is supposed to be done behind the scenes. Namely, the court sends the updated birth record information to vital records. Vital records is supposed to update the information and mail a copy of the birth certificate application to the family. In our case, four months went by — and a couple of emails to our caseworker — before we got that information. Once it came, we promptly filled out the form and requested five copies of his birth certificate. We figured having more than one on hand made sense since we had to wait so long in the first place. That took another few weeks to be processed and returned. When it was all done, it took five months from the time of finalization for us to have his birth certificate in hand.

We also had to wait a few weeks for our copies of the finalization decree to be delivered. Since the hearing was via zoom, the court staff had to mail us the decree. If we had been in-person, it would have been given to us that day. We needed the decree in order for us to be able to call social security and have his records updated there which was important because we were receiving disability payments for him due to his ongoing medical issues. We needed to have his redetermination completed as quickly as possible because with him officially joining our family he no longer qualified for benefits. We didn’t want to deal with returning payment overages. I spent almost two hours on the phone getting it all worked out. A few weeks later, we had a corrected social security card for him.

Unfortunately, I still need to contact them again. Since I didn’t have his birth certificate when I called social security and they are only allowed to use a single document twice for verification, Justin and I have not been updated as his parents yet. I’ll probably need to get on that before I try to have his passport done. Oh goodness, the paperwork never ends!

What questions do you have?

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