Courtrooms normally are not happy places. People come to court who have been accused of crimes, from speeding tickets to murder charges. Ventures that have started with “I do” and a pledge “till death do us part” come to court to bury a marriage relationship that has died. Domestic partners come to seek orders preventing an abusive partner from having any contact.
Folks come to court to seek to regain custody of their children, who have been removed because they were in need of protection from their own parents, or services that their parents were unwilling or unable to provide.
People come to court seeking money damages for a wrong that has been done to them by another person or corporation.
And in just about every one of these situations, at least one, if not all, parties to the action leave the courtroom disappointed, if not angry at the judge’s decision.
But there is one hearing presiding over that every judge enjoys: adoptions.
Sometimes Mom has remarried, either after Dad has died or the parents divorced, and step-dad wishes to make the children his own. Sometimes the parents are not able to take care of the children and they have been permanently removed from their care – their parental rights being terminated. Sometimes the parents-to-be have literally traveled halfway around the world to bring their children home.
The adoptive parents sit at the counsel table and are sworn. The reports from social services are in the file, approving the adoption. There are a few routine questions: Do you understand that if the Court grants your petition, you will be assuming all of the rights, as well as the responsibilities of parenting this child? You will be, for all purposes except genetic, this child’s parent?
They always say yes.
Then, if the child is old enough, or there is an older sibling present, I’ll ask, “Now, if I sign this paper, that means that Peter is going to be your brother. Do you want me to sign it?”
They always say yes.
Then, the cameras come out. Cameras are not permitted in Minnesota Courtrooms, but all judges make an exception to have a photo taken with the adoptive parents and their new child. Often, the siblings join in for a great photo.
And everybody is smiling.
An adoption is the only case where it is an absolute certainty that everyone leaves the courtroom happy.
* * * * *
Next Week: Search Warrants