Los Angeles Drops Need for Court Appearance for Uncontested Adoptions During Court Closures

adoptions

Hundreds of uncontested adoptions in Los Angeles County have been hung up at the final stage since the coronavirus slowed in-person court appearances to a crawl, but that’s about to change.

Kevin C. Brazile, presiding judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, worked with the state Judicial Counsel and a couple of prominent children’s advocacy organizations to devise a system where all the legalities can be submitted by the parties and checked off remotely by the court. 

“Right now, there are 212 uncontested adoption cases on hold since the court transitioned to prioritizing emergency and time-sensitive matters during the COVID-19 crisis,” Brazile said in a news release Thursday in which he praised the L.A.-based nonprofit Alliance for Children’s Rights and pro-bono law firm Public Counsel for working with him to cut the red tape. “With just one more step, these parents will be able to finalize their forever families without delay.” 

Los Angeles’ new process may soon be used across the state to break down similar obstacles, which could lead to thousands of adoptions finalized sooner than if they had to wait until social distancing requirements are lifted.  

Brazile acknowledged that everyone involved in uncontested adoptions cherishes the in-person court appearance — a moment of joy and celebration that is the emotional payoff for two months of work and years of anticipation by the adoptive family. 

“But with the social distancing requirements in place in our courthouses to slow the spread of COVID-19, this easy, model process offers a convenient, safe alternative to coming to a courthouse,” Brazile said.

The new process can shorten the waiting time from formal request to final approval to just several court days.

It requires the adoptive parents to sign a notarized adoption agreement and other paperwork, and send it to the court electronically. Court employees check it over, and if everything is in order, the final order is filed and and forwarded to the parents through their attorney.

Adoptive parents may choose to wait until the in-court process returns to normal, but that may take months.

Chronicle of Social Change staff reports

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