Sunday, July 5, 2009

Joint Custody and Adopted Children

Let me start with clear and unquestionable truth: Sole custody endangers the bond between adoptive parents and adopted children.

For us, parents of adoptive children, divorce after adoption brings a special kind of tragedy that adds to the already tragic condition of living without our children. I have referred to Beck v. Beck case before in this blog for several reasons. This case set a precedent for joint custody cases, stated the primacy of physical custody as the factor that defines parent-child relationships, and stated that a children have equal need of their fathers and mothers. However, I have another reason far more personal. In this case, what is in dispute is the custody of adopted children.

While having children is always a blessing, being, like in my case, incapable of having biological children and receiving the gift of an adoptive child, is a very special privilege. This child is never an accident, an unplanned consequence: this child has been chosen by the love of his/her parents. I will not try to explain here how many and beautiful are the dreams of a parent who adopts a child. Neither will I try to explain the profound and tender love that adoptive parents develop for their children. Nevertheless, I will certainly try to highlight the importance of physical custody for the parents of adopted children.

The fact that allows people to adopt as their own other’s people children, is that what really makes a child your child is that he/she is raised by you, and what makes someone your parent is that he/she raised you, and by raising I refer to the day to day type of contact that only physical custody can provide.

Even when adopted children get to know their biological parents, the children will consider parents only the ones who have raised them. This fact implies a truth that should be considered here: that in the absence of a bloodline between a parent and a child, like in the case of adopted children, sharing the dynamics of day-to-day life is what creates the bond between them. For an adoptive parent, the physical custody of his child is not one of the ways to create a bond with his child, it is the only way. Beck v. Beck affirms this singularity of adopted children, stating:

…that because the girls were adopted, they needed “the benefit, contact, and security of both parents.” 86 N.J. 489 (1981)

Beck v. Beck admonished against endangering this attachment between the adopted girls and their father:

Viewing the issue in terms of the importance of fatherhood in the lives of the two girls, it (the court) concluded that the lack of real contact with the father would have negative developmental effects, particularly because the girls are adopted. 86 N.J. 492-93 (1981)

Depriving adopted children from one of their parents, as family courts usually do in custody cases, takes away for the second time what life has already taken once: the love, comfort, and security that only their father and mother can give them.

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