On March 28, 2012 the Family Law Section of the State Bar together with the Stonewall Bar Association of Georgia is sponsoring the first ever continuing legal education program in Georgia focused exclusively on issues for same-sex couples.
Lawyers from across Georgia, including our very own Ruth Claiborne, will gather to learn about and discuss legal issues for same sex couples. Speakers will discuss topics including: Same-sex Issue Spotting; First Steps to Take When Retained; Interaction between Federal and State Law for Same-sex Marriage; Title 19, when it is and is not available in Same-sex Matters (and Where Else to Look); and, Domestic Partnerships. Ruth Claiborne will be speaking on parentage and same sex couples.
Today Claiborne & Surmay, P.C. partner Ruth Claiborne was featured on Creating a Family’s weekly radio show. This week’s show focuses on the legal issues surrounding egg, sperm and embryo donation. You can listen to archived and live radio shows here.
Claiborne & Surmay, P.C. recommends Creating a Family as a supplementary resource for information about adoption, infertility and assisted reproduction. This non-profit organization’s website includes a blog, webinars, videos and country charts for international adoption in addition to the weekly radio show.
While Facebook and other social media sites can be instrumental in helping adult adoptees and teen adoptees (with their parents’ permission) find their birth parents, it can also be a dangerous minefield for underage adoptees who are searching – or are being searched – without guidance from an adult. With the rise of social media, there is even more reason for adoptive parents to be open and honest with their children about their adoptions and their birth parents. Teen adoptees are very likely to search for birth parents their own, using Facebook and other social media sites, and if search and reunion has been discussed openly and honestly between adoptees and their parents, teens are more likely to turn to their parents for help.
Claiborne & Surmay, P.C. took leading roles in the 22nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA) and the 2nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys (AAARTA). The meetings were held May 4-7, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency, Savannah, following a full year of planning by conference co-chairs Ruth Claiborne, a principal in Claiborne & Surmay, P.C. (Atlanta & Savannah) and Jim Thompson of the Thompson Law Firm,LLC in South Carolina. Claiborne & Surmay senior paralegal Toni Treadway co-chaired the paralegal portion of the conference, with attorney Shannon Matteson serving as liaison and advisor to the paralegals. This was Toni’s second time as a paralegal leader together with Wendy Gebhauer of Wisconsin, and once again she did a fantastic job. Our Savannah office, located on Bay Street just 2 blocks east of the Hyatt, provided valuable logistical support and paralegal Kim Griffin also set up several tours for participants and guests.
By all accounts this was one of the Academy’s most successful annual conferences ever, drawing approximately 250 attorneys, 32 paralegals, 15 sponsor/vendors, and numerous seminar speakers, spouses, and guests. Despite beautiful weather and the attractions of historic Savannah just steps from the hotel, 15 hours of cutting edge continuing legal education seminars were very well attended, held in a room with a long glass wall overlooking the river! Topics included Surrogacy Contract Drafting, ARTs Dilemmas; Health Insurance for Gestational Carriers; Ethics; Legislative Advocacy; Joint Adoption, ARTS & Immigration; Jurisdiction and Multistate Adoptions; Contested Adoptions; Impact of Maternal High Risk Behaviors on Child Development; Social Media; Telecommuting and Multijurisdictional Practice; and more. Paralegals were involved in a number of the CLE Sessions but also had their own breakout sessions focusing on ethics, technology and practical paralegal pointers.
The AAAA and AAARTA conference was an invaluable opportunity for all who attended to share ideas, to network with the best attorneys in our field from all over the US and Canada; to learn from each other and form lasting professional alliances. Often adoption and ARTs cross state lines with parties residing in different states, so it is crucial to have trusted colleagues throughout the country. The conference provided a balance of education, business meetings, and social activities.
On the recreational and social fronts, we built events around Savannah’s history and charm: a waterfront headquarters hotel, the opening reception at The Olde Pink House with delicious food in a converted historic home, and our main evening dinner and entertainment event on beautiful Johnson Square, complete with Savannah musicians followed by AAAA’s Rogue Band (famous in Academy circles!), delicious food, and the beauty of the historic square with its live oaks and monuments surrounded by landmark buildings. Attendees in their free time enjoyed walking tours, a riverboat cruise, an array of great restaurants, kayaking, golf, and even “The Book” Club at Clary’s café.
The conference ended on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Perhaps not coincidentally, Mother’s Day weekend was the time at least two adoption triads met for the first time, following successful searches and reunions. A daughter from Oregon found her birth mother who lived in Savannah, met for the first time, and contacted Savannah media about the joys of reuniting. Attorney Ruth Claiborne was interviewed by the local Fox news channel about adoption reunions, the role of state-sponsored reunion registries, the new phenomenon of social media, and the Academy’s support of open adoption. Meanwhile, paralegal Toni Treadway and her husband went out to dinner and had a very personal encounter with an adoption reunion between a birth mom, biological father, and adult adoptee, happening at a nearby table in the restaurant. Toni was able to connect with them in a special way and to give meaningful and lasting gifts of understanding and a necklace with special symbolic meaning. For more on Toni’s story,click here.
AAAA voted in 2009 to form AAARTA as an affiliated academy, in recognition of the growing role of assisted reproductive technologies in family formation. Both Academies have rigorous selection processes for fellows, high ethical standards, and focus on the best interests of children as well as the adults who want to be parents. Both Academies seek out the best in our niche practices of adoption and assisted reproduction. We are grateful for having been given leadership roles and energized by having experienced the latest/greatest continuing education while having fun and enhancing professional relationships.
On June 23, 2011 Claiborne & Surmay, PC sponsored Georgia Equality’s annual event, Evening for Equality, which was held at the Georgia Tech Conference Center and Hotel in Atlanta. Founded in 1995, Georgia Equality’s mission is to advance fairness, safety and opportunity for Georgia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied communities. The organization works on issues such as hate crimes, domestic partnerships, workplace protection, HIV/AIDS, school safety and adoption.
At the 2011 Evening for Equality event Bill Nigut, Johnny Fambro, Karla Drenner and Olivia Long were honored for their outstanding work. Bill Nigut is the Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Johnny Fambro has been a leader in the fight for equality and the fight against HIV/AIDS in Macon and throughout Central Georgia for nearly three decades and is the executive director for the Central City AIDS Network and The Rainbow Center. Rep. Karla Drenner is a five-term Georgia House representative for Georgia’s 86th District. Olivia Long has served as the Executive Director of AIDS Athens since 2007.
The IRS appears to be scrutinizing adoption tax credit claims more vigorously this year, perhaps because the credit was refundable for the first time in 2010. Several former clients have called our office to let us know they are being audited, some because of tax credits they applied for more than 5 years ago. CNN Money has an article about the tax credit and the IRS’ treatment of it here. The Federal Adoption Tax Credit helps many families afford the high costs of adoption and also motivates families to adopt special needs children, as the entire credit may be claimed for a special needs child even if no costs were involved.
** This post is not meant to constitute tax advice. For advice about the Federal Adoption Tax Credit please talk to a certified public accountant.
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs (MOWCYA) has announced it will process only five (5) adoption cases per day, effective March 10, 2011. The average prior to this change was fifty (50) cases per day. This is a major change, which will likely to lead to extended wait times for prospective adopting parents currently in process with an Ethiopian adoption. The cutbacks are reportedly in response to worries of fraud in adoption procedures in Ethiopia. To read the US State Department Press Release click here. To read an interesting, lengthy blog post on whether these cutbacks are necessary and effective, click here.
We proudly announce that the Savannah office of Claiborne & Surmay, P.C. has relocated to a new office on East Bay Street. The Savannah office continues to offer high quality legal representation in the areas of Domestic Relations Litigation; Assisted Reproductive Technologies; Adoption; and Civil Litigation. The contact information for the new Savannah office is:
Claiborne & Surmay, P.C. Attorney Will Claiborne Paralegal Kimberly Griffin 410 East Bay Street Savannah, Georgia 31401 Telephone: 912-236-9559 Facsimile: 912-236-1884
We look forward to seeing you in our Savannah office in the very near future.
The Creating a Family website, operated by Dawn Davenport, is a wonderful resource on infertility, ART and adoption. Each week she blogs and facilitates a radio show. Past episodes are available on the website. This week’s radio show is on Breastfeeding the Child Through Adoption or Surrogacy and it includes first hand accounts from parents who successfully breast-fed their children who were adopted or born through surrogacy. Check it out to find out more about this interesting topic.
The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled that a second parent adoption is not necessary to establish parental rights for the non-genetic intended parent of a child born through gestational surrogacy. The court indicated that a valid Gestational Agreement (contract), entered into prior to the pregnancy, is what is required in order for both parents to be considered the child’s legal parents at the time of birth. This ruling is a step forward for gay couples in Connecticut, who otherwise would need to complete a second parent adoption for the non-genetic parent to be a legal parent of the child. Read an article about this case here.