Last Friday, we did our re-adoption.
I think Beth posting this picture to her Facebook and writing “It’s official” confused some people, so I thought I would take a minute to explain it a little more…
First off, let me say that it was official when we received our sentencia from the Family Court in Bogota on September 10th of last year. That legally named us the mother and father of the kids, who were officially in the care of the Colombian government at that time. When they stepped foot on US soil ten days later, they were legally US citizens.
So, what’s the big deal? Why did we spend four months of savings to do it again? Well, even though they are our children and US citizens, the documentation that makes them our children was issued in a foreign country. Because they live here and are subject to our laws, both state and federal, legal matters get tricky when a foreign government made the decision that you want your own government to honor.
If you go to fwcc.org (Families with Children from China) website, they have the following list of reasons why it is important to do a re-adoption (I think their words are better than mine):
>· Adoption is a matter of state law and each state has its own laws. A state court adoption decree issued as a result of a re-adoption is fully independent of the foreign decree. As a result, if you have an adoption decree issued by a U.S. state court, all other states in the U.S. are required under the U.S. Constitution to give full faith and credit to the decree and to all of your child’s rights under the decree. Therefore, obtaining a U.S. state adoption decree assures you that every state in the U.S. will recognize the decree and makes it unnecessary to rely solely on the validity of a decree issued under a foreign law.
>· Federal laws, such as Social Security, can be based on a state’s underlying law regarding adoption, inheritance, etc. In certain circumstances a U.S. state issued adoption decree, as opposed to a foreign adoption decree, is required for an adopted child to be entitled to social security benefits through his or her parents or parent.
> · There are practical concerns. An adoption decree from a U.S. state court will be in English. The adoption documents that are issued from your child’s country of birth are generally in a language other than English and will always need to be accompanied by separate English translations. Should you need to prove the adoption it will be easier for you or your child to be able to refer to one document that is written in English and is readily recognizable as a decree of adoption. In addition, you will have a limited number of originals of the documents from your child’s country of origin. Should you lose these it will be difficult if not impossible to obtain additional “originals” or certified copies. If you have a U.S. state adoption decree you can easily obtain additional copies if necessary. For example, when you apply for a U.S. Passport for your child, you will be required to send them an original copy of the foreign adoption documents for processing of the passport. If you have a U.S. state adoption decree, you can use this in its place, and give this to the Passport Office rather than risk losing the original foreign decree.
> · Usually a legal name change is part of the adoption decree so that all of your child’s future documents will reflect his or her “American” name. As it is a court-ordered name change, the USCIS should issue the Certificate of Citizenship in the child’s new name. Otherwise, if the child’s U.S. visa and other immigration documents are in the former name some USCIS and Social Security offices will not issue documents in the child’s “American” name.
> · The re-adoption hearing is usually a friendly proceeding before a Judge, either in a courtroom or a small room. Usually family members and friends are allowed to come to the hearing. The hearing can serve as an opportunity for other members of your family or friends to be involved in the adoption of your child, who could not attend the initial adoption abroad.
> · Finally, an adoption decree issued from a U.S. state court will provide your family with additional peace of mind and protection should the foreign country involved, or others, ever challenge the validity of the adoption of your child or adoptions from the country generally. You may at some point want to bring your child to visit his or her country of birth. A U.S. state issued adoption decree will prove and confirm his or her status as your child under U.S. laws.
So re-adoption, from what I can tell, looked at the sentencia that we received, said it is good, and echoed it with an adoption decree here in the US.
This was very different from court in Bogota. That is not to say one was better than the other; they were just very different experiences, even though they essentially do the same thing.
In Bogota, the family court was more like an office. There was a window in front of the court we were assigned to, and a long line of people. Inside there were lots of busy people working to take care of the paperwork. In the far back was the judge’s office. We got to see the judge in her office, but it wasn’t because that was part of the normal procedure. It was because our lawyer knew certain people that would allow us to go back and visit. We visited twice.
Once was with all the kids before the ruling. We got the kids in nice clothes and tried our best to look like June and Ward Cleaver to “seal the deal”. Our judge was super nice and spoke to our kids in Spanish a little. That was before we were very good at it, so our lawyer spoke for us.
After we got a ruling, I went back to the court to pick up the paperwork, and, while there, I told the judge thank you because I was getting a lot better at Spanish at that point. FYI… halfway through telling her “thank you”, I accidentally used the familiar “tu” instead of the much more respectful “usted”. I threw in a few “Lo sientos” to make it better, but I think she looked past the error.
The mechanics of the court in Bogota (What the busy people behind the window were doing while we weren’t there) are better explained in the last four paragraphs of this blog post.
Here is the US, it was more like what you think about when you see Judge Judy or Night Court. We went to the Family Law Center in Fort Worth and met our lawyer 15 minutes before our court date. He gave us a quick rundown of what to expect. Then we went into the court. There was a bailiff (not “Bull”), a judge (not Judy), our lawyer, and our entourage (Us, the kids, and Beth’s parents and sister). That was it. I think that had more to do with the fact that we were the first decision of the day for the judge and not because we weren’t super cool. We didn’t have to sit on the defendant side or the plantiff side. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have to sit at all.
We were sworn in (the kids mimicked us, even though they didn’t have to give testimony) and our lawyer asked me a series of questions to which he told me before-hand the answer would always be “yes”.
“Have these children been in your care for more than 6 months?”
“Have they been examined by a medical doctor of your choosing?”
“Are you satisfied with their mental, emotional, and physical state?”
Those are the ones I can remember. There were three or four others. He asked Beth after hearing my testimony if she agreed. Fortunately, she didn’t let me down! At that time, I think the judge was enjoying himself, and he asked if “Grandma wanted to testify…” Beth’s mom didn’t let us down either! Like the proud Grandma she is, she said “It’s like they’ve always been our grandkids. It’s hard to think of life without them.”
The judge was kind enough to let us take some pictures of the court and us in it. We looked like tourists. We stopped just short of hanging off the judge’s podium for our staged “hung jury” photo since the next case was coming in, but it was super nice to enjoy a court setting where nobody was mad at each other.
We then went downstairs and waited about 15 minutes for our paperwork. They told us that our final adoption decree and birth certificates would come at the end of September. We could pay them more money and get them sometime in August… How does more money make the government do what it is suppose to do faster? We saved the extra money and will be waiting.
Because all that happened before 9:00 am, we decided to indoctrinate the kids into another piece of (North) American culture – Cracker Barrel!
It was a good day and the last part of our adoption… Now we can start living happily ever after. So far so good!
At the dinnermesa,