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Daneille D. Stewart
I am an adoption law paralegal working in the
I received my paralegal certificate of
What are your responsibilities?
One of my daily responsibilities is legal research, which differs from other specialties because some adoption cases involve researching and complying with your own state law as well as another state’s law. For example, if a prospective adoptive parent who resides in Florida calls and wants to adopt a baby being born in another state, it’s my job to analyze and report to my supervising attorney where the termination of parental rights will occur (which state has the most favorable laws, time frame and costs). Next, I determine where finalization will occur (i.e., whether the sending state allows out-of-state residents to finalize), and what the legal requirements are for the family regarding the interstate compact, including whether an attorney can be the receiving entity or whether it has to be an adoption agency. Then, I research how the consent for adoption should be drafted. Finally, I determine and draft the required court pleadings for my supervising attorney to review and sign, including affidavits, petitions for adoptions, petitions to terminate parental rights, pending adoptions and final judgments. In contested cases, I review the case notes and file to draft the Request for Admissions, Request for Production and Interrogatories.
How did you get into this specialty?
My husband and I adopted three children, and my
legal background gave me insight to the many aspects of adoption
law. When it came time for me to work part time, I decided I wanted
to use my legal background for the good of adoption. I was hired by
the attorney who handled our third adoption. After she closed her
practice, I was hired by Jeanne T. Tate, an
What are some challenges in this field?
In adoption law, the most challenging aspect of working with families is the anxiety and other emotions involved with wondering whether the adoption will fall through. Another challenge is deadlines that are equivalent to a “race to the courthouse” since petitions often need to be filed the same day they are signed.
Adoption laws change regularly, and keeping up
with the changes also can be a challenge. For example, one of the
biggest changes in adoption law right now has to do with
international adoption after
What is your most memorable case?
My most memorable case was a maternal grandparent
adoption. The birth mother was 100 percent sure she was going to
place the child until she was asked to sign the consent for
adoption. The birth mother was crying and shaking and saying she
just wanted to try to parent her child. I said, “Then go home and
try, we’re here if you need us.” After six months, she came in, said
she tried, and signed the consent for adoption. It then took me
about two years to secure the birth father’s signature on the
consent for adoption because he always was out of the country. I
kept in contact with him from country to country via the Internet,
telephone and regular mail and finally got him to sign the documents
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