National Adoption Day: Celebrating a Dream Come True

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November 22, 2014 is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the more than 100,000 children who are currently in foster care waiting to be matched up with their forever family. This is a day that is very near and dear to the hearts of everyone here at Veitengruber Law.

National Adoption Day was founded in the year 2000. The idea for the yearly celebration came from a coalition of partners, including: The Alliance for Children’s Rights, The Children’s Action Network, the Freddie Mac Foundation and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Since the year of its inception, National Adoption Day has helped to facilitate the adoptions of nearly 50,000 children.

Each year, during the week before Thanksgiving, 300+ events are held throughout the United States to help finalize and celebrate the adoption of infants and children nationwide.

The legal side of the adoption process is quite complex, and takes a lot of dedication and patience. Attorney George Veitengruber and his wife, Heather, know firsthand what it feels like to grow their family via adoption. This year, they proudly celebrate the one-year anniversary of officially adopting their baby son. They now know that the long and winding road they were on was leading them to him all along.

Because of his personal life-changing experience, combined with the fact that he is a true humanitarian at heart, George now helps walk other people through the intricate adoption process so that they too can find the happiness of meeting their child. If you’d like more information on how Veitengruber Law can help you grow your family through adoption, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Image credit: Andrew Vargas

When Should I Make Changes to my Will?

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We understand just how uncomfortable it can be to give much thought to your own mortality. Sometimes, however, it’s necessary to put your discomfort aside in order to do the right thing, which, in this case, is setting up an Estate Plan.

Otherwise referred to as a “will” or Last Will & Testament, having an Estate Plan in place means that your loved ones will have the guidance they need after your passing in order to make decisions on your behalf. Keeping your Estate Plan updated means that you may be able to keep your dearest family members and friends out of major disagreements that can be extremely harmful during the mourning period.

Assuming that you already have a will in place, many people wonder if and when it is necessary to make changes to their Estate Plan. After all, our world is an ever-changing place, and naturally, so are our lives. What we set into place five years ago may be obsolete today.

Consider making formal changes to your New Jersey Estate Plan if:

  • Your love life blossoms – Whether you get married or enter into a long-term committed relationship, it’s important to add your significant other to your will, because without doing so, your legal partner has a right to half of your property and a partner that is not legally recognized will get nothing. If you object to either of those situations, you need to put it in writing.

 

  • A marriage ends in divorce – Although most states automatically revoke any property rights from a former spouse as soon as a divorce is finalized, some states do not. It’s important to check. Also, it’s entirely possible that you may still want to include your ex-spouse in your will, especially if you have children together. If that’s the case, you may have to “write them back in.” You may also need to make changes if someone named in your will gets divorced – for example if your daughter divorces her husband, you may no longer want him to be named in your will.

 

  • You hear the pitter patter of little feet – Whether you give birth to, adopt, or gain step-children by marriage, you’ll want to ensure they are cared for in the event of your passing. Children are automatically given certain rights to some of your property, so if you want to be specific about who will receive what, be sure to put that in your Estate Plan. Also note that step-children are not automatically entitled to inherit anything from you, but most step-parents do want to include them.

 

  • You have a change of heart – Let’s face it – things happen in life, and that’s putting it mildly. Oftentimes, people change their mind about who they’d like to leave part or all of their property to – due to special or unforeseen circumstances not listed above. The important thing is making sure it’s in writing, because otherwise, you’ll be shaking your fist from beyond.

 

But How Do I Change My Will?

You can make changes to your will by speaking to an attorney who specializes in NJ Estate Planning. He will help you modify your paperwork by adding a codicil or by writing a completely new Estate Plan. A codicil is an amendment or a “PS” to an Estate Plan document that overwrites part of your will or adds new provisions. If you decide to add a codicil, it must be signed and legally witnessed exactly as your original Estate Plan was in order to be legal. Today, it is usually much easier to create a completely new Estate Plan, stating in which that you revoke all past wills and codicils. This helps to avoid any confusion regarding which papers are most current and accurate at the time that they become necessary.

Image credit: Walter

U.S. Domestic Adoption Facts and Statistics

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Adopting a child or children is an increasingly popular way to expand or create a family.  The fact that adoption numbers are steadily on the rise is nothing but good news for all involved. Long-range studies have shown that children who grow up in orphanages have lower IQ levels and delayed language development than their peers living in foster care or adopted families. Due to a lack of proper care and attention in children’s institutions, those who remain unadopted for long periods of time, their intellectual development suffers. Brain development that occurs soon after being born is often delayed in children who are neglected and under-stimulated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, has revealed through their Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) that approximately 500,000 United States children do not have a permanent place to call home, but they are lucky enough to be living with a foster family. Among these half a million youngsters, around 115,000 are eligible for permanent adoption. Unfortunately, nearly half of them will likely have at least a three year wait before their “forever family” finds them and adopts them. Older children are far more likely to remain in orphanages or foster care for extended periods of time when compared with infants or very young children/toddlers.

Because many couples or single parents long to raise a child from infancy, many people turn to international adoption because of the high number of babies living in orphanages overseas.  Although a baby may very well be placed with them, the process of adoption internationally can be grueling and usually involves a period of residency in that country by the prospective parents.

Those who wish to avoid the length and intensity of international adoption, turn to domestic adoption in the United States. However, even adopting in your own country has its share of trials, tests, and tribulations (and lots of paperwork). There are also several different types of domestic adoptions, as well:

Closed Adoption – No identifying details about the birth mother or parents is shared with the adoptive family, and vice versa. The families also have no contact before or after the birth and adoption process. Prior to adoption, the prospective parents will receive information about the baby or child, minus any specific, identifying information. Once the adoption is finalized, records are sealed and can only be opened by the child himself when he turns eighteen years old.

Open Adoption – This type of adoption permits a certain level of communication between the birth parent(s), adoptees, and adoptive parents. The communication ranges from pictures and letters to phone calls, letters, and visits. Adoption of an older child is usually open, due to the fact that the child herself  may want to remain in contact with her first family on some level.

Agency Adoption -The details of an Agency Adoption are taken care of by a certified adoption agency.

Private Adoption – All private adoptions involve an intermediary such as a lawyer, doctor, or other facilitator, and do not involve a licensed adoption agency. These types of adoptions will not afford the birth parents or adoptive parents with any assistance throughout the adoption process, and are, in fact, illegal in some states.

Foster Adoption – In these cases, a child who is placed with a foster family with the intention of the family to eventually make the situation official through adoption. It’s also possible to adopt a child directly through the foster care system without fostering them first.

To learn more about which type of domestic adoption would be most suitable for you and your family, visit AdoptUSKids. If  you are ready to enter the adoption process, be sure to have a qualified and knowledgeable attorney by your side to ensure that your adoption remains 100% legal and goes off without a hitch.

Turning Adoption Dreams into Reality

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Anyone who has negotiated a successful adoption knows that the legal process that surrounds adoption is a complex maze that requires dedication and determination to expanding your family in a “non-traditional” manner. If you are considering adoption for the first time, or even if you are not a newbie, Veitengruber Law would like to be by your side throughout the entire process to ensure that your experience is a positive one.

Because adoption laws differ from state to state, it is extremely important that you have a good handle on everything that is required in order to make your New Jersey adoption successful. And while you must be sure to have a good personal understanding of the process, it is imperative that you work with a qualified adoption attorney to ensure that your legal pleadings are filed appropriately and on time at the appropriate New Jersey courthouse. Your New Jersey adoption attorney will also represent you in court throughout your adoptive process, so it is important to choose an attorney experienced in adoption cases.

During adoption processes, birthparents are also advised to work with an attorney separate from yours, so that they are well advised of their legal rights surrounding the choice they are making to relinquish their parental rights. The cost of the birthparents’ attorney will be your responsibility as the adoptive parent(s), but it is more than well worth the cost to ensure that your adoption goes off without any difficulties later on down the line.

When you begin working with Veitengruber Law, you will find us at the ready to join you in your adoptive process, regardless of whether you have yet to choose an adoption agency or if you are nearing the end of legalizing your adoption and have become dissatisfied with your previous legal representation.  It is important to feel comfortable around and to have a rapport with your adoption attorney because you will be sharing personal and private information about your family life with him or her. No matter what your needs are, our attorneys are personally invested in helping you realize your dreams of becoming a family.

Starting at the beginning of the adoption process, our attorneys will advise you on the best questions to ask before choosing an adoption agency to work with, like:

  •  How many children have you successfully placed for adoption in the past year? Five years?
  •  Exactly how long has your agency been in business?
  •  Can you give me references (parents who have used your agency and want to be contacted) so that I may ask them about their experience?
  •  What is the usual adoption process like with your agency?  Can you give me a general timeline of events?
  •  Regarding costs, can I get a breakdown of fees and when they would be due?
  •  Does your agency provide a translator? (if you are pursuing an international adoption)
  •  Can you provide me with details regarding how you abide by domestic and international adoption laws? Can you also provide me with proof that your adoptive families are also following all pertinent adoption guidelines and laws?

To learn more about how you can choose the right adoption agency for your family, and to learn more about the entire adoption process, contact us in the manner you feel most comfortable.  You can visit our website and write to us using our contact form, email us (george@veitengruberlaw.com), or call us directly at (732)852-7295.  We look forward to to turning your adoption dreams into reality.

Second Parent Adoption: Securing Your Family’s Future

rainbowPhoto courtesy of Dann Toliver

Same sex couples who decide to add children to their families often have to deal with some complicated decisions and legal issues. Often, only one parent is considered the ‘legal parent’ even if both parents share equally in taking care of the couple’s child or children. This happens because legal rights are automatically given to a parent when they are biologically connected to a child. Because both members of a same sex couple are not usually biologically related to their child except in extremely rare circumstances (eggs or sperm donated by a relative to one of the partners), problems and questions can arise that male/female couples never have to face.

In most same sex couples with children, only one partner is the biological parent to the kids. Also, even though many gay couples adopt children, historically only one parent has been granted legal custody. These situations leave the other parent with limited parental rights, and may ultimately cause the non-legal parent to lose contact with the children in the case of a break up.

Luckily, the LGBT community now has a solution to this problem, in the form of a Second Parent Adoption.  This is a legal proceeding which gives the same legal rights to the second parent without the first legal parent losing any rights at all, resulting in the child or children having the benefit of two legal parents. Any breakups or difficulties experienced by the couple won’t cause undue stress on the children, at least not beyond the expected stressors of having parents who decide to end their relationship.

A Second Parent Adoption closely resembles a traditional adoption proceeding, with the only difference being that in this case, one parent already has legal rights to the couple’s children. The second parent must petition the court to be granted joint rights without infringing on the first parent’s rights.

Some people may wonder why a Second Parent Adoption (also known as a Co-Parent Adoption) is even necessary, especially if the couple is in a seemingly stable same sex relationship which may even be recognized as a Civil Union.  In many cases, the second parent may even be listed as a parent on the birth certificate, frequently in cases where artificial insemination has been used to impregnate one partner. The significance of a Second Parent Adoption lies in the fact that a non-biological parent may not be granted the same legal rights by all states.  Unfortunately, not all states recognize and honor Civil Unions and the parenting rights that are implied therein. In order to avoid any potential problems while travelling or as the relationship experiences turbulance, same sex co-parents are advised to become legal parents of their children as soon as possible.

Any child who is born into a family with same sex parents or adopted by one member of a same sex relationship should have the security that come with having two legally recognized parents. It is important for parents to be proactive for the sake of the children that they have taken the responsibility of raising.  Living in New Jersey as a same sex couple will make the process of Second Parent Adoption much easier for couples because the LGBT community is well-respected and not discriminated against here. The Veitengruber Law firm is adept at handling Second Parent Adoptions and can answer all of your questions easily when you call our office for a consultation.