Surrogacy in New York: Not Simple

With the ratings success of the new NBC television sitcom, The New Normal, it might be worth reviewing surrogacy laws in New York to determine whether the process is as simple and quick as the show makes it seem.In short, the show is about Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha), who are a gay California couple hoping to start a family through a surrogate named Goldie (Georgia King). Now, there are two common types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. Traditional surrogacy involves insemination of the surrogate’s egg with sperm, resulting in the surrogate being the biological mother. Gestational surrogacy involves implantation of an embryo, formed from a donor sperm and a donor egg, into the surrogate, resulting in the surrogate being biologically unrelated to the baby.

New York makes surrogacy difficult because New York’s Domestic Relations Law § 122 states that surrogacy agreements are against public policy. Specifically, the DRL states, “Surrogate parenting contracts are hereby declared contrary to the public policy of this state, and are void and unenforceable.” It also prohibits people from paying or accepting money in relation to the agreement, except for medical fees and hospital expenses. The state can monetarily penalize anyone who pays a “surrogacy fee” or accepts one. This means that if the intended parents and the surrogate mother are from New York, the surrogate does not have to give up the baby despite having signed an agreement. Thus, the intended parents may only work with a surrogate who resides in a state that allows surrogacy and should draft all agreements in the state where the surrogate lives.… <Read More>

The Federal Adoption Tax Credit; General and Specific Issues

The following is a general overview of the Federal Adoption Tax Credit and attempts to address certain questions that adoptive parents may have.  The ultimate issue with the Tax Credit now is that it is scheduled to sunset at the end of 2012, and most of its significant portions will not apply in 2013.

WHAT IS A TAX CREDIT?  Generally, a tax credit is used to reduce the amount an individual owes in taxes to the federal government.  For example, let’s say that one owes the government $100 in taxes after calculating income, but there is a $10 tax credit available for which one qualifies.  This reduces final tax liability to $90. At the most basic level, this is how the Adoption Tax Credit operates in 2012.  The IRS website provides examples of the applicability of the credit.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE TAX CREDIT? It is intended to reimburse individuals and families for certain qualified expenses incurred during the adoption process.  It is also intended as a mechanism to encourage adoption as a method of family growth.

HOW DOES THE TAX CREDIT WORK? This is a one-time credit for each adopted child.  If a child was adopted in 2009, one could claim the credit in 2009.  If the credit was claimed in 2009, it cannot be claimed again the following taxable year.  If one adopted two children in 2009, one could claim the credit twice for that year.  In the years 2010-11, the credit is refundable, meaning that one would actually get a check in the mail if the adoption was finalized in those years, offset by any income tax owed. … <Read More>

Do Celebrities Have An Advantage in the International Adoption Process?

A recent article in the Huffington Post titled “Celebrity Adoptions: Do Stars Get An Advantage?” discusses how some new celebrity parents are bringing a good face to the adoption process, something several people in the adoption community think is important. However, the article questions whether celebrities are getting preferential status when adopting internationally, primarily due to their excess of wealth. The international adoption process can be a long, expensive, and tedious one for families, yet certain celebrities, like Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, and Madonna seem to be able to adopt international children rather easily. This article suggests that because “international adoptions are often a much longer and more complicated process…celebrities can pay to get priority”.[1]

“According to David Smolin, a professor at the Cumberland Law School at Samford University and an international adoption expert, non-residents are not allowed to adopt in Malawi, but because of the humanitarian aid Madonna poured into the nation, she was able to skirt some rules when adopting her two children, Mercy James and David Banda.”[2] Is this fair? Should wealthy individuals be able to go around established international laws just because they have money to throw at the issue?… <Read More>

Adopting Your Significant Other – Creative Idea or Creepy Notion?

John Goodman, an heir to a West Palm Beach air-conditioning fortune has adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend, Heather Hutchins. Goodman’s reasoning for this bizarre move is “for estate planning purposes and to ensure protection of both his and her minor children and the stability of all the family investments.” See Michelle Castillo, Fla. man adopts his 42-year-old girlfriend, CBS News (Feb. 2, 2012). By adopting his girlfriend, Ms. Hutchins is now entitled to one-third of the beneficiary interest in Goodman’s trust and will have access to her share immediately. With this adoption, Goodman now has three legal children, the other two of whom are minors.

This adoption comes on the eve of Goodman’s trial for a wrongful death suit. See Daphne Duret, Goodman’s adoption of his girlfriend challenged in court, The Palm Beach Post (Feb. 8, 2012). Two years ago, Goodman was involved in an automobile accident after running a stop sign that allegedly caused the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson. See Castillo article. Goodman now faces criminal charges involving driving under the influence, manslaughter, and leaving the scene of an accident. See Duret article.

The minor children’s guardian and the attorney filed a motion in Miami court, asking for the adoption to be thrown out. They believe that Goodman failed to disclose his upcoming trial to the judge who approved the adoption. Otherwise, the adoption will result in Goodman’s trust being split three-ways, with Hutchins netting almost $9 million, in addition to $5 million in extra money Hutchins may ask for each year, according to the agreement.… <Read More>

Adult Adoption – The Fastest Way to a Woman’s Heart?

Most people think of adoption as making an existing family relationship whole, particularly when an adult adoption is being made.  Many reasons can hold an adoption of a minor back until the age of majority, such as not being able to get the birth parents’ consent, or in the case of stepparents, the child not feeling close enough to the stepparent to be adopted so soon.  But typically, one would expect an adult who agrees to be adopted by another to have some form of parent-child relationship with the person about to adopt her.  Otherwise, why would she even consent to being adopted?

Maybe for access to the trust he set up for his teenaged kids, worth up to an annual payment of $5,000,000?  It’s why the multimillionaire founder of the polo club in Wellington, Florida, John Goodman, age 48, adopted his 42 year old girlfriend.<Read More>