10.14.2012

# 52: ARE ALL ADOPTION ATTORNEYS THIS EVIL?

PAGE # 52
Saturday
12/17/11
Approximately 1:30 pm

We were in the hospital, following the attorney down the corridor, only moments from reaching the room where Kendra and her baby waited.  The attorney moved quickly.  I hurried past her, then did an abrupt turn directly in her path, forcing her to stop.
"I don't understand.  It's been hours.  What happened in there?"
 Shelley spoke softly.  "Oh, there was quite a bit of fighting between Kendra and her mother.  Her mother was terribly condescending toward her.  I felt so bad for Kendra."

Tom hadn't sprinted forward alongside me, and was only now joining the conversation.  "Go on," he instructed Shelley.

Shelley continued.  "And her husband just wanted to get out of there so he could go fishing.  I mean, poor Kendra!"  Shelley cupped a hand over the side of her mouth and lowered her voice even more.  "I really think she was hoping that someone, anyone, would show more concern for her.  I imagine she was even hoping that interloper would show his face here," Shelley remarked, referring to Bobby, the biological father.
"I thought she was afraid of him," I said.
"Well, yes, of course," Shelley said, rolling her eyes.  "But you know how the fantasy goes.  She probably just wants someone to care about her.  Her husband signed off as the legal father on the paperwork, thank God!  But he just wanted to get done so he could run off with his fishing buddies.  Oh, I already told you that."
"I don't understand," I said.  "I thought Johnny didn't want to sign off on the adoption paperwork.  It's not his baby."
Up until this point, neither Bobby (the biological father) nor Johnny (Kendra's legal husband) had been willing to sign off on the adoption paperwork.  

Bobby had refused to sign off on the adoption, but he also hadn't demonstrated any interest in parenting the child--he had taken no action to assert any paternal rights.

Moreover, Johnny had also refused to sign off on the adoption paperwork--he was not the baby's true father and he didn't want to sign any kind of legal document that stated otherwise.  Aside from the moral issue at stake, there was the volatile history of his marriage to Kendra, and Johnny's own attorney had advised him against signing the adoption forms.  If the adoption, for whatever reason, did not work out, Johnny didn't want legal responsibility of the child.  Whether his marriage to Kendra would continue was questionable.  They were trying, sure, but Johnny could potentially be risking financial responsibility for the child, if the adoption plan failed, and if he had signed a document that asserted paternity for the child.
"I thought only Kendra would be signing off on the paperwork?" Tom begged for more clarification.
Shelley walked forward a bit, then turned to face us again.  
"Be happy he signed it!" she instructed us.  "Otherwise, we'd have no leg to stand on in court!"
"Court?" I asked.
"Well, it's not going to come to that.  It's just a legal thing.  Don't worry about it."
But I was beyond worried.  Those early feelings I'd had about the attorney were back, only tenfold.

Shelley must have noticed my panic, because she changed the topic.  Of course, at the time, so much information was getting thrown at Tom and I, neither of us could process it quickly enough.  What Shelley said next diverted my attention to a new matter, but I would fail to cognitively grasp the sheer manipulative strategy Shelley employed:  She had clearly noticed my empathy for Kendra, and exploited it by shifting my focus off of the legal concerns and back onto Kendra.
"Before we go in there," Shelley continued.  "I just want you to know why else it all took so long."
Shelley looked straight into my eyes.
"Apparently, Kendra did some online research last night, and she read that some adoptive parents promise to keep contact with the birth mother, but then after they get the baby home, they completely disappear and the birth mother never hears from them again."
"Oh my God," I said.  "How can people do that?"
"There's no legal way to enforce an open adoption," Shelley explained.
"But I thought people did open adoption all the time nowadays?" I countered.
"Well, that's what people say they're going to do, but when the adoptive parents cut off contact, there is no legal recourse for the birth family.  There's no such thing as a legally enforceable open adoption."
"Oh my God, that's utterly evil," I said, in true horror.  "What kind of people would do such a thing?"
"People who want a baby and will say anything to a pregnant woman to get one."
"Oh my God," I repeated, starting to appreciate the terror Kendra must be feeling.  "We would never do something like that.  Kendra must know we would never do that."
"Well, she doesn't know that for sure.  And that's why she was having a full blown panic attack.  That's why it took so long.  Kendra's worried you might not follow through on your stated interest in maintaining a connection with her."
I realize there is no way I could feel exactly what Kendra was going through, but my heart filled with terror.  I felt as if I my body had been injected with Kendra's fear and panic.  It was terrible.

Tom expressed disgust upon hearing this news--that other adoptive couples manipulate birth mothers with the false promise of an open adoption--but it did not impact him with the emotional force I was experiencing.  He knew he would never do such a thing to Kendra and that was comfort enough for him; on the other hand, I had a more visceral reaction to the whole conversation:  It was not enough that we knew we would never close the door on the baby's birth family.  I felt actual terror thinking that Kendra felt terror over this, and that she was saying goodbye to her little girl with no real knowledge that she would ever see her again.  

The whole imagined scenario was just too devastating.  I thought of what Kendra must be feeling inside, and I felt terror.

Then, we rounded the corner and were just a few feet from Kendra's hospital room.  That's when the attorney said:
"Oh and I opted not to use a court reporter earlier.  It was a strategic move on my part."
"I thought there had to be a court reporter present," I said.
"Oh no," Shelley replied.  "A court reporter is for Kendra's benefit, but in this case, I made the strategic decision to help Kendra by opting out of the recording.  Kendra would only hurt herself in the long run in a court report."
Shelley was now just outside of Kendra's room.
"Wait!" I exclaimed.  "Isn't it the law to have a court reporter present during the adoption paperwork?" 
Shelley's eyes narrowed as she reprimanded me.  "Jennifer!  You are not the lawyer here!  That's my job.  I'm the legal expert.  I've done this over 2,000 times.  Please!  Kendra is waiting for you to take her baby.  Leave the legal matters to me--you are not an attorney and you don't understand the law."

And with that, Shelley knocked on Kendra's door, and before I could grasp even a percent of all the conversation that transpired along the walk from the elevator to the doorway, I was face to face with Kendra, her baby, and Kendra's parents.

Johnny, Kendra's husband, was already gone.  
"Fishing," Kendra told us, although we already knew this from Shelley.  "He said to tell you guys good-bye and thanks for everything."
To Be Continued...

6 comments:

Loving Mother said...

This is so heartbreaking. I look forward to each new post and at the same time I dread reading it. :( I hope that makes sense.

ROBYN Chittister said...

That adoption attorney does sound evil. Not all adoption attorneys are evil, though. The attorney we used in MO was great. Professional but compassionate, and following the law to a "t".

Jennifer said...

Loving Mother...yes, it makes sense. The story is filled with tough stuff but it is inherently interesting at the same time. Writing it helps me to remember and process everything. I've been doing this blog since Feb., and when we lived the experience, I had only met "Kendra" less than a couple of weeks prior to where I'm at in the blog. Crazy.

Robyn...I only wish I had listened to my gut from earlier on about the attorney. A real lesson.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

Best,
Jennifer

Loving Mother said...

I am glad you are finding a way to work it out. That's what I'm doing with my blog too. It helps so much to write it down and get it all out. Hugs to you.

Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy said...

I'm reading.. I'm reading.. I need to know it all. And I think I love you...and yes, they are evil. Thank you for writing this all down.

Jennifer said...

Hi Claudia!
I've been a big fan of your blog since I discovered everyone here in adoption-land. Thanks for reading :)