What To Tell Your Ex About Your New Job 

You did it! You finally landed a new job that you are super excited about. This is going to make your life so much better, which in turn will make life so much better for your kids, too. Congratulations. 

Then, you freeze. What do you tell your ex? Does he need to know about your new job? Will it cause more problems between you? Will you be in trouble with the court if you do not tell him? So many questions start to run around, all of which are perfectly legit. 

Good thing you have a lawyer friend right here. Let’s talk about what to tell your ex about your new job. 

First and Foremost, Check Your Court Order 

When in doubt, always refer back to your court ordered divorce decree and/or parenting plan. Is there anything in there that requires you to share information with your ex? If so, exactly what are you required to share? Sometimes you need to share major life changes so that you are both aware of what is going on with your kids. Often you need to report significant changes in income, especially if child support or alimony are involved. Check your court order and make sure you understand what it says. If the language is vague (What qualifies as “major” and “significant” anyway?), talk to a lawyer so that you fully understand your obligations. A quick post-divorce coaching session is perfect for questions like this. 

Do They Need to Know? 

The next question to ask yourself is whether or not your ex needs to know about your new job. They may need to know if it requires and tweaks your custody schedule, or if you will be switching the kids to new health insurance. They most likely need to know if it means you will be moving, especially out of your current neighborhood. If it’s not ordered by the court, look at whether your new job will be impacting them at all. Then, decide what to share accordingly. 

Imagine The Consequences 

New jobs bring a lot of new things with them – schedules, income, and overall lifestyle. What will happen if/when you tell your ex about your new job? 

If you think they will be spiteful and take that out on you or on the kids, then revisit whether you are really required to tell them anything to begin with. 

If your income is changing and that impacts how much alimony or child support you get (or pay), would telling your ex be to your benefit? Does your court order or local laws require you to divulge this information regardless? 

Do you think your ex would use it as a reason to take you back to court, even if it doesn’t make any sense? Remember, you need to fight a court case even if it has no merit. If your ex is the type to file things for no reason just to drive you crazy, you should take that into consideration. 

One of the biggest questions involves relocation. Does your job require you to move? If so, make sure you are extremely clear on what your court order and local laws say about relocation. You may be required to give your ex notice of the relocation, but not necessarily about the specifics of your new job. 

If you want to rub it in your ex’s face that you’ve been successful at something, I get it. Really, I do. It also does a great job of making new partners jealous, which can be so tempting. But as I commonly advise, be the bigger person. Remember that your life is about you and not about your ex. Enjoy and savor your success without needing to rub his nose in it. It will be a healthier attitude and outcome for your entire family. 


If you are unsure of what to tell your ex about your new job, or about anything for that matter, click here to schedule a post-divorce coaching session with me. We’ll comb through your Missouri court order and figure out exactly what you should do to reach your goals. 

How To Make The Most Of Time With Your Kids 

One thing I hear from all moms is that time goes too fast. And as a mom myself, I can tell you that time flies. There never seems to be enough time to impart everything I want to my daughter before she grows up a little more and her needs change. So, whether you have Siegenthaler visitation or are on parenting duty 24/7, let’s talk about how to make the most of the time you have with your kids. 

1. Focus on the Time You Have

We all have 24 hours in a day. What we do with that time is completely up to us. Similarly, we all have a set time to be a parent. Maybe you are on a structured parenting plan with a custody schedule that tells you exactly how much time you have with your kids each week, or maybe you are living with your co-parent and have more fluidity in your schedule. Either way, we have a certain amount of time that we are there to mother our kids. Will you choose to ruminate on how much time you are missing, or will you stay present and make the most of every minute you have together? Kids tend to remember how you make them feel in the moment. If you want to make the most of your time with your kids, focus on the time you have now. 

2. Forget What You Read on the Mommy Blogs

A word of caution about mommy blogs, social media groups, and other online communities: They are fantastic resources for connecting with other moms and learning from mutual experiences, but the problem is that there is no way to screen who you are taking advice from. Do you share the same core values? Do you have the same goals for your kids, your families, and yourselves? A frugal mom who is pinching pennies would probably seek different advice than one who is not worried about money. A mom whose child has special needs looks for different resources than those in mainstream education. Similarly, the moms who you meet online may be in a completely different life circumstance than you are. So, take their words with a grain of salt. If they do not seem to mesh with how you parent, that’s okay. It does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. 

When it comes to being in the moment with your own kids, there is no blog that can tell you what to do. It’s all up to you. A problem arises when people do things they were told to do, as opposed to things they feel are right. It gives them an excellent scapegoat when something goes wrong, but it also takes away the ability to actually make parenting decisions. As an adoption mom, I know what it’s like to be swarmed with education and resources on the “right” and “wrong” ways to handle different situations. Don’t get me wrong, that education is incredibly valuable for learning and developing parenting skills. But if your gut is telling you something in the moment, follow it. No blogger or educator knows you or your children as well as you do. Their systems and methods are guides, but they should not override your “motherly intuition.” Parent by being yourself, and take full responsibility for it. 

3. Be the Best Co-Parent You Can Be, Even If He’s Terrible

Too often, kids are seen as a bargaining chip between parents. This is especially true when parents are co-parenting from separate homes. An important lesson my clients learn during the legal process is that they can only control themselves; they cannot control the other person. So, you be you and be fabulous. Do everything you can to be a good communicator, share important events with your co-parent, and talk respectfully about them around your kids (even if you think they are a total jerk). Make sure your side of the co-parenting relationship reflects who you want to be as a parent. If they do not reciprocate on the other side, process the anger and frustration that comes with that, because those feelings are legitimate and real. Once you are done processing, hold your head high, and refuse to stoop to their level. If you can master this, you will enjoy your time with your kids infinitely more, because you will be confident in knowing that there is nothing you can do to make the co-parenting situation any better than it is. 

4. Accept and Love Them for Who They Are

I have seen so many moms lose time in prolonged grief trying to force their kids to be something they are not. I get it. Especially during the long months of pregnancy or waiting for an adoption match, it is natural to dream about what your children will be like. Will they be a world-star athlete? Will they find a cure for cancer? Maybe they will be the famous singer you never got to be. The longer you wait, the stronger those dreams can become. Take a moment – right now – to close your eyes and take a deep breath. 

The child you have is not the child from your dreams. They are a living, breathing, feeling individual. Everything you say and do molds them for life. That is a huge responsibility, and it is scary. But that child has a purpose, and they have innate skills and abilities that are just waiting to emerge into the world. If you want to make the most of the time you have with your kids, look at them with an open mind, get to know who they truly are, and love them unconditionally. 

5. Enjoy

My daughter absolutely loves to see me laugh. And when I do, then she lights up with happiness and laughs, too. Many moms are quick to say that they want their kids to be happy, yet they approach life in a manner that has them rushed, stressed, and too busy to soak it in. If you stop and enjoy the present moment with your kids, chances are they will enjoy their time with you as well. This makes whatever time you have with them a chance to make a real, positive impression that will last them a lifetime. 


Are you struggling to make the most of your parenting time? If you have a court-ordered parenting plan, you may be able to fix the problem before going back to court. Click here to set up a coaching session with our lawyer to discuss how you can make the most of the time you have with your kids.  

How to Win the “Mom Game”

The mom game is about having it all, having the best kids, and being perfectly put together every single day. It’s about having a career, hobbies, and close personal friendships as well as the perfect marriage and an envious love life. And in creating this life of perfection, you still manage to be best friends with your kids from the time they are infants until the day you die. 

The more Pinterest-loving overachiever moms you know, the more you understand exactly what I am saying. And the more you try to be like this, the more you understand this truth: none of that results in winning. 

All too often I talk to women who missed out. They focused so hard on winning this complex game that life passes them by, leaving them weary and unsatisfied. In trying to win, they end up losing themselves. 

I’m here to tell you that you can win the mom game. You can win in a way that is fulfilling, satisfying, and overall beautiful. Here’s how to do it: 

1. Know Yourself and Your Values

Are you working yourself ragged trying to advance your career, when you are perfectly happy with the position you are currently in? 

Are you feeling depressed day in and day out as a stay-at-home mom because you think you can’t afford child care if you go back to work? 

Let me ask you this: who decided what you should prioritize in your life? 

I grew up with a stay-at-home mom who said child care was bad for kids, and also told me I had to work full-time and be my family’s breadwinner. Talk about mixed messages! 

Here’s the truth: YOU decide what kind of life you want to live. No one from your past and no one in your present gets to craft the future you. You can be anything you want to be. The only catch is that you have to know who that is. 

So, who do you want to be? 

Do you want to be a mom who makes perfect cupcakes, packs bento box lunches, and scrubs the house on a religious schedule?[Text Wrapping Break]Do you want to be a mom who teaches responsibility while also teaching your kids to shake it off and have fun? 

Do you want to have an identity that includes a professional career? Is it the career you currently have? 

The first and most important step to winning the mom game is to know yourself and who you want to be. This gives you the framework for what “winning” actually means to you. 

2. Accept the Phases

When I became a mom, a friend gave me a golden nugget of wisdom. She told me that everything with children is a phase, good or bad. Be prepared for everything to change, because it always will. 

Grasping this concept is a key to winning the mom game. There is never truly a finish line when it comes to parenting. Our kids keep changing, evolving, and learning. We should be right there doing all those things right with them. We can avoid the regret of missing out on things by embracing them as they come. Live in the moment, soak in the gift of motherhood that you are given today, and truly enjoy it before it goes away. 

Oh, and just like our kids keep changing, so do we. So those values and goals you established in the first step? Those may change over time, too. And if they do, that’s okay. Winning is about embracing the journey, not the destination. 

3. Choose Your Feelings

At the end of the day, the choice of winning and losing is up to you. How are you going to feel about everything that went well and everything that went unexpectedly? Are you going to feel like a failure for not getting any Instagram-worthy pics that day, or are you going to feel the success of nourishing one more day of life into your precious little humans? 

You choose how you feel. This concept can be difficult to swallow, but once you do, you will realize that you can win the mom game every single day just by showing up and being true to yourself. 


It’s hard to be your best self as a mom when you have legal questions weighing you down. If you need to chat with a lawyer friend at no charge, click here to schedule a coaching call with me.

How to Love Your Kids Through Divorce

When parents go through a divorce (or any breakup resulting in a custody battle), children are stuck in the middle. It is an inevitable truth. No matter how committed parents are to keeping things neutral, their kids are the ones who end up with a different way of life after having little or no say in the matter. It is a lot for undeveloped little minds and hearts to endure, and it leaves everyone in the family grasping for understanding, strength, and love. 

While you are dealing with all the different pieces of the divorce, you want your kids to know that you love them more than anything. It may be hard for them to see in the moment, especially when tensions run high. So many moms come to me asking how they can convey that love to their kids, and what they can do differently in times of such extreme stress. I embrace their desire to be the best moms they can be, just like I embrace you on your quest to learn how to love your kids through divorce. 

Focus On Their Needs and Know Their Wants

Make sure your kids needs are met. During this difficult transition, they should not have to question if their basic needs will be fulfilled. You may even want to do just a little extra by making their favorite foods more often, doing an extra load of laundry so that they have their favorite clothes, and triple checking to make sure their lovey is always in their backpack. Know what they would want to make them feel a little extra comfortable and try to make that happen for them. Especially if your children are very young, there will be plenty of time for them to learn the independence and adjustment that comes from a dual household. During the divorce, give them as much certainty as possible. 

Accept Who They Are, How They Change, and How They React

Divorce has a way of bringing out change in kids, especially in the early teen years. They may react to the divorce in ways you do not anticipate. Some kids undergo big changes in personality, including likes and dislikes. Kids of all ages are testing the new landscape of their lives to see what it entails and, in the process, discovering who they want to be. Accept them as they are rather than trying to make them react a certain way. 

Do Not Put Them in the Middle, Even if You See No Other Way

Like I said before, kids inevitably end up in the middle of a custody dispute. You should avoid doing anything that highlights that. Using children as messengers, giving them adult responsibilities, or using them to avoid talking to your ex may seem like little things in the moment, but they have a heavy impact. Remember that your kids are just kids, and they should be allowed to remain that way regardless of the change happening in their family. Handle adult matters yourself and with your co-parent. 

Get Them Help

Even the most well adjusted kids are dealing with a complete derailment of their worlds when parents split up. Get them help sooner rather than later. Options may include individual counseling or play therapy, support groups for kids in similar circumstances, and having adult mentors outside the family. Try to know your options before starting the divorce so that you have resources to draw on when you need them. When you get the sense to act, find help for your kids sooner rather than later. Especially if you need court approval to get mental health treatment, that can be a lengthy process that you do not want to delay. 

Get Yourself Help

You cannot love your kids if you do not love yourself. Make sure you have a strong support system for yourself, including a counselor, therapist, coach, or someone else you can turn to when you need help. Too often, kids become sounding boards for their parents during a divorce. This puts unnecessary weight on your kids and stands in their way of healing. If you have your stuff together, then you are setting them up for the best chances of success. 


Do you need a lawyer friend to help you focus on loving your kids? Click here to schedule a complimentary coaching call. 

What is Love?

For years now, I have been curious about the answer to this golden question: What is love? What exactly does it mean to love? And after all those years of research, exploration, and discovery, what I have determined so far is this: there is no concise answer. Everyone will have their own answer, and every situation will have its own possibilities. 

As a lawyer, I work with women in a very specific and yet broad array of life circumstances. There are 4 key traits I see in people who radiate a sense of love during their journey through the drama into the lives of their dreams. Let me share them with you. 

They Focus on Themselves

Let’s start with the biggest one right away. People who exhibit love know that it means focusing on themselves. They take care of themselves, they understand their needs, and they make sure those needs are met before they give anything to anyone else. Does this mean that they have it all together all the time? Absolutely not. Their awareness and abilities evolve over time, so what they do constantly changes. What stays consistent is their focus on recognizing what they need and fulfilling those needs. 

We have all heard it said before: You cannot love someone else if you do not first love yourself. Focusing on your needs and how to meet those needs is a reflection of loving yourself. 

They Take Responsibility but Not Blame

Where you are in your life, regardless of the exact details or circumstances, is your total and complete responsibility. 

(I just lost some of you right there, and that’s okay.) 

Taking responsibility is not the same as accepting blame. This can be a difficult concept to understand, because we have been taught by discipline over the years that they are the same. Let’s illustrate this with an example. 

I have frequently come across women in abusive relationships. They come to me after a life of isolation. Many times, they have no job, no marketable skills, and no income or money in savings. They are tied to their abuser in several possible ways – through assets and debts, children, and complicated emotions. They want to be out of that life situation, but there are so many hurdles for them to cross to be truly free. 

Blame focuses on the past, and asks who made that situation happen. 

Responsibility is acknowledging her reality, recognizing that she has a lot to overcome, and making a commitment to a better life. 

People who love themselves do not focus on blame. Instead, they take responsibility for articulating their goals and taking the steps to get there. 

They Put Their Kids First

Women in family court who are dealing with child custody and child support disputes have a real opportunity to show love. They do this by putting their kids needs ahead of their feelings. 

Notice, I did not say that they put their kids needs ahead of their own. They do not sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of their kids. Look back at my first point and see why that does not actually work. 

The most intense and emotional drama in family court comes out when discussing the best interests of a child. Too often, parents confuse what a child needs for what the parent wants. Mothers who show love can tell the difference between their feelings (i.e.: what they feel like doing out of anger, pain, or revenge) and what their child actually needs (i.e.: relationship with both parents and financial support). 

They Focus on Their Future

Family court makes it really easy to pull you back into your painful past. It brings up a lot of truths, reveals secrets, and materializes things you once thought were priceless. Even people going through an uncontested divorce find some dark feelings when listing and monetizing assets and writing out specific visitation schedules. 

Coming from a place of love means that while you may feel all the feelings associated with this ugliness, you stay focused on your future potential. 

An asset may be undervalued, or you may not be getting what you think is a fair share. Once you reach an agreement, you focus on how you will use the money to jumpstart your new phase in life. 

Your coparent may get the kids for a holiday you were looking forward to spending with them. Instead of sulking over it, you help them pack extra feel-good items and make special plans for yourself. 

Whatever the situation, you focus on the opportunity to maximize your potential, rather than finding something to keep you down. 

Is that all there is to it? Of course not. Love is beautifully complex, and it will be nuanced for every single one of you. Take some time to reflect and ask yourself, “what is love?” There are no wrong answers. 


Do you need a lawyer friend to help you through a bump in the road? Click here to schedule a complimentary coaching call. 

The Difference Between Separation and Divorce

Let me tell you one thing I dislike about the legal system: the words. Especially the terms “separation” and “divorce.”

The terminology in this world is crazy. Even after going to law school and taking the bar exam, I resorted to Google to teach me a lot in my first year of practice. Most of the time, it was just unnecessarily frustrating. In family court, however, getting the terms wrong could lead to huge mistakes and highly emotional misunderstandings. Even lawyers who don’t practice in this field enough get it wrong sometimes. (Remind me to tell you about the time when I was a law student, and a lawyer told me that clients who get a “dissolution” end up better off than the ones who get a “divorce.” It still makes me shake my head.) 

It is not surprising that I have friends and clients asking me all the time: What’s the difference between a separation and divorce?

And this one is a big one. Misunderstanding the difference can actually lead to you filing the wrong kind of case in court, and with all the myths running around on the Internet, it may produce results you do not want. 

I do not want you to be one of the women who gets stuck in this technicality because you have much bigger things to be thinking about. So, let me break it down for you. 


A divorce is also called a “dissolution of marriage.” You may also hear things like “dissolving the marriage.” This all means that you are ending a marriage, giving it a precise end date. All property and debts will be divided in a divorce. If you share children with your spouse, then child custody and support will be determined. Alimony, also called spousal maintenance, would be determined or waived. At the end of a divorce, the goal is for all issues to be resolved. There should, ideally, be no outstanding issues left to deal with. 

Moving forward, child custody and support are the only things that would be ongoing matters for potential court involvement. A divorced person is free to get married again if they choose to do so without any knowledge or involvement of the prior spouse. Divorce is the ultimate end of a relationship. If the two people wish to get back together, they would most likely need to get married again. 


The simple word “separation” means that two people are not currently together. Some people separate temporarily to take a break and give each other breathing room. This may be anything from sleeping in separate rooms for a while to actually setting up separate living arrangements. A separation itself has no legal ramifications. All property and debts are still held the way they are when two people are married, and child custody does not change until a court gets involved. 

What makes this slightly confusing is that if you do file for divorce, you may be asked for a date of separation. I tell my clients to think of this as a date that they started living separate lives. Many people who still live together use the approximate date that they decided to get divorced. For some, that is the date they are sitting in my office having this very conversation. 

Legal Separation 

The term that messes people up is “legal separation.” In Missouri, while a simple “separation” is not a legal term, the term “legal separation” is. Think of it this way: a legal separation is exactly the same as a divorce, but in the end, you are not free to remarry. 

In a legal separation, property and debts are divided. Alimony or maintenance is established. Child custody and child support are determined. It is presumed that the two people will no longer be living together or mingling their finances. The only catch is that they are still legally married, so they cannot marry someone else without first getting divorced. 

In my experience, people who seek legal separation instead of divorce usually do so for a reason. One of the most common is that they need to get out of their marriage for safety reasons, but they feel religious or societal restraints on getting officially divorced. Another reason is that they are unsure about getting divorced because that word just bears so much weight, so they opt for a softer blow. This latter group almost always changes it to a divorce before filing the first round of paperwork. 

People reach out to me all the time with some very obscure questions based on things they read online. If you have any questions about the difference between separation and divorce, please talk to a lawyer who can give you a real honest answer. I do not want you to be one of those people who makes a bad decision based on something that is just not true. 

Need to talk to a lawyer friend about a separation and/or divorce? Click here to schedule a no-cost coaching call with me. 

The Truth About Orphans in India

My all-time favorite TV show, Gilmore Girls, says it perfectly: “Oh hey…you know how many kids in India would love to come home to a room full of quiche?” Whether we are talking about orphans in India, Africa, or anywhere, we all have developed an image of orphans and what their lives must be like.

Until recently, I shared these stereotypical images. I could imagine little kids in orphanages far away, living on nothing and fighting to survive. I assumed that any charity we could send their way was good because it would help those children survive and thrive. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, my act of charity through a vague fundraiser for “food” or “education” might actually help to give those kids better lives. 

Now, after visiting an orphanage in India several times while adopting my daughter, my perspective has changed. I realize that orphans are not necessarily who we picture, and the things they need to improve their lives are not the kinds of things we always think about when trying to help. I also learned from the experiences of other adoptive families and their interactions. I learned that not every orphanage is the same, and some are far better for kids than others. We tend to hear a lot about the bad ones in the media (like the one that actually shut down while I was there fostering), but we do not hear a lot about the good ones. 

Here is what I learned, in a nutshell: 

The number of children in orphanages in India is far less than the actual number of orphans in the country. The black market is very strong, and the number of children and families begging on the streets is high. There is no foolproof way to help these people from the comfort of our first-world lives. Anything we do will be temporary and minuscule at best. But, without that support, there would be no hope for any of these kids. The one thing I believe to be true is this: kids belong in families. 

Giving back and charity work have been long-standing pillars of my business. So far, we have been doing this by allowing our clients to select charities for us to support with monetary donations. Moving forward, we will be adding another initiative. 

Girl’s Best Lawyer Friend will be sponsoring an orphan child in India. We will be doing this through an organization called Sarah’s Covenant Homes, which works to place orphan children in India in actual foster homes instead of institutional orphanages or on the streets. We hope that this small gesture will serve the greater cause of helping kids find families – foster families, adoption families, or whoever else their family is meant to be. 

I would like you to meet the child we are sponsoring, Adeline, a 4-year-old girl in India awaiting adoption.  

I initially had the privilege of reviewing Adeline’s file when pursuing the adoption of my daughter. I am working to figure out how much of her story I am legally allowed to share with you (yes, lawyers need to wait for legal answers sometimes, too!). Until then, I’ll say this: Adeline has special needs that are considered “moderate.” She is currently living in a foster home in India, and our goal is to help keep her there until she finds her forever family. 

To follow Adeline and our other charitable initiatives, you can like and follow our Facebook page. 

If you have any questions about adopting a child, whether from India or through another process, I am happy to speak with you about my experience, both personally and professionally. Click here to schedule a no-cost coaching call with me. 

How to Adopt

Making the decision to adopt is a huge step. After deciding to grow your family through adoption, the next step is figuring out exactly how to adopt. This first step into the adoption world can be intimidating. It will slap you in the face with acronyms, words you don’t understand, and terms that only make sense to those “in the know” within the adoption community. Even as a lawyer, taking this step personally was a lot to understand and digest. So, let’s make it as simple as we can for you.

There are many different types of adoption you can choose from. Some of these routes may be pursued at the same time, while some are exclusive enough to lock you in. There is no right or wrong answer when deciding how to pursue an adoption. There are many factors to consider. The choice will be unique to you as a family.

Here are the different avenues you have for pursuing an adoption as a US citizen.

1. Newborn & Infant Adoption

This option is sometimes called Newborn Adoption, sometimes Infant Adoption, and sometimes just Domestic Adoption. What this means is that you are adopting a new baby within the United States. In most instances, you will work with an adoption agency to connect with a pregnant birth mother before the child is born. By the time the child is born, you will have completed most of the paperwork and legalities to adopt the child. The adoption will then be legally finalized after the child is born. In some cases, you may connect with the child immediately after birth while they are still in the hospital, without any interaction with the birth mother before that.

This path to adoption is common for those who want to adopt a newborn baby. The process includes lots of training, a home study (and subsequent updates), and some form of self-advertisement, such as a photo book, video, or other media that introduces your family to a prospective birth family.

2. Foster Care Adoption

Adopting from foster care means that you are adopting a child who has, for whatever reason, been separated from their birth family. Sometimes these are newborn babies and infants who are left in the hospital after birth. More often, these are older children who are removed from their birth families after allegations of abuse or neglect. They may range in age from babies to teenagers. In most cases, you have to spend months or even years fostering the child before you are able to legally adopt them.

Fostering to adopt a child is a hot-button issue within the field. What prospective adoptive parents should know is that the foster system is committed to reunifying children with their birth/legal families whenever possible. This means foster parents take on the burden of emotionally investing in a child who may eventually leave their care. Foster parents should take responsibility for a foster child only if they are actually committed to helping the family reunify before adoption even becomes an option.

It is worth mentioning that many people choose to adopt from foster care because they believe it is free. However, adopting from foster care is not by any means without cost. The state may cover your legal and professional fees for a home study, lawyer, etc., to complete the legal adoption process. However, there are several other fees involved with fostering, adopting, and raising a child which will rest on your shoulders. Make sure you know how your state works and what financial obligations fall to you before pursuing adoption through foster care.

3. Private Adoption

A private adoption is when you already know the birth mother and/or child you are going to adopt. The adoption is agreed upon by everyone involved in advance. To complete this kind of adoption, you simply need to locate lawyers you trust to help you complete the legal process. Because there is no search and no matching process, you can avoid many of the steps involved with an adoption where you are looking for the child to adopt.

Private adoptions are probably the most straightforward. They are also the rarest. This is common when children are being adopted within families or friend groups, especially when arrangements are made before the child is actually born.

4. International Adoption

Adopting from another country is probably the most complex route to adoption. It involves both domestic and international laws, including the rules of the Hague Convention and the laws of the country the child is coming from. International adoption always starts with locating an agency within the USA that is licensed to facilitate international adoptions with one of the countries that is allowed to adopt children to the United States. Your agency is then responsible for walking you through the process of completing a home study, doing all the paperwork, and matching with a child in the sending country. For most countries, you will eventually need to travel to that country for a period of time to finalize the adoption in a foreign court and bring your child home. Then, the adoption will be registered in an American court once you arrive at home.

My family chose the route of international adoption when we adopted our daughter from India. It was a long, tedious, expensive process with lots of paperwork. In the end, for us, it was worth it, because we could not imagine our family coming together any other way.

If you are interested in growing your family through adoption, the first step is to talk with an adoption lawyer in your state. Find out what your options are and discuss what legalities need to be covered for any of the above processes. Once you get that information, you will be in a better place to choose which route to adoption is best for you and your family.

Need to talk to a lawyer in Missouri about adoption? As an adoptive mom myself, I am happy to share my experiences and walk you through it, both personally and professionally. Click here to schedule a no-cost consult for us to talk.

“Canceling” an Adoption

Canceling an adoption is an unpopular topic, but we are talking about it. Like everything here at Girl’s Best Lawyer Friend, we will be blunt, honest, and factual about the subject. Of course, as an adoptive parent myself, it will be laced with my personal and professional opinions and experiences.

I have heard many people tiptoe around this question. They use words like “reverse” and “undo.” The one I have heard the most often is, “can you cancel an adoption after it’s done?”

As a lawyer, I know the real question: Can I abandon my child?

Because we are talking about voluntarily surrendering an adopted child, there is an extra undertone. The parents chose the child, so it is natural to be curious if that choice can be turned around. As an adopted child, we already know they were abandoned or surrendered at least once before in their life. So, an adoptive parent abandoning their child creates a second layer of repeat trauma.

At this point, many people will tear up or shake their heads in disgust. That reaction is precisely the reason why this topic is talked about so rarely. It is also why it is so important that we discuss it openly and honestly.

When I was living in India, fostering my daughter in anticipation of her adoption, I met a couple from the United States who had just adopted a school-age girl from over there. A few weeks after picking her up, they decided to leave the child in India and return home without her. My daughter enjoyed playing with this girl in the hotel lobby, so that is how I became privy to the situation. To say that it broke my heart would be a gross understatement.

Here’s the truth: An adoption cannot be “canceled.” Once you adopt a child, you are the legal parent of that child. It is no different than having given birth to that child yourself. You must abandon the child if you choose not to be their parents anymore. Once a child is legally declared to be abandoned, someone in the state’s child welfare system may ask the court to terminate the parental rights of legal parents (notice I said legal parents–there is no distinction between biological and adoptive parents at this point). Once parental rights are terminated, the child is legally free for adoption.

We commonly hear about this process of abandonment to adoption concerning newborns, especially those left at the hospital after birth. The process, generally speaking, is the same for older children. Parents can abandon children of any age, potentially making them available for adoption.

After seeing this happen before my eyes, I realized why we had to jump through so many hoops to adopt our daughter. For adoption to end in abandonment is traumatic for everyone involved. There are no words to fully explain the depth of that tragedy. This is why the system has evolved to have many built-in safeguards against it. Having been through the intense international adoption process, here are my two cents on what you can do to keep from being in a situation where you have to ask if your adoption can be “canceled.”

1) Choose adoption for the right reasons.

The decision to adopt is highly personal. I wish I could give you a list of all the “right” reasons to adopt, but I can’t. Adoption (heck, and life itself) is not a black-and-white area with rights and wrongs.

What I can tell you, however, is that you should not adopt a child to save them. If you are doing it because you want to be a hero or savior for a poor innocent child, chances are you are in it for the wrong reasons. Children belong in families, not in petting zoos. Adopting a child is not about erasing their past or crafting them into a specific person. Instead, adoption is about loving a child for who they are and honoring every part of them, including their history.

2) Talk openly with others who have walked the path and those who have not.

Most adoption parents I know are more than willing to share their experiences with others considering adoption. Talk to them. Talk to as many people as possible who have been through what you are considering. At the same time, talk to people who have only biological children. Talk to people who choose not to have children at all. Talk to everyone you trust about their life, experiences, and wisdom. Make sure you know what you are getting into, not just with the adoption process but with parenting kids at all ages and stages. You will never truly understand what you are getting into before doing it, but the more you talk to people who have done it, the more you will be prepared for what is coming. You can get this insight in other ways if you’re not a talker. I learned a lot from my work in the foster care system when I saw and worked with different parts of the triad and the professionals involved. I saw cases where families came together through adoption and others where adopted children were abandoned. If you’re not in a profession that gives you this exposure, you could volunteer with a local non-profit that serves single moms or adoption communities. The point is to get out there and educate yourself not just about your thoughts and options but about the bigger picture of adoption and why it is necessary for our world.

3) Pay attention to your required education.

To adopt a child, you have to do a lot of education. It can be tedious and seem unnecessary. The truth is, this education is a natural gift. This education, however monotone and redundant it may be, is valuable. Listen to it, research the parts you do not understand, and put what you learn into practice.

As adoption parents, we had classes and instructions on aspects of parenting that most people do not get. We learned about bonding with a child, healthcare concerns specific to children adopted from India, and hot-button social issues that would impact our family before, during, and after adoption. After picking up our daughter and realizing we were complete strangers, the things we learned in those pre-adoption podcasts were our backbone to get through our initial weeks together.

4) Get help when you need it.

Adoption is stressful. A significant life change happening outside your control leaves you feeling powerful and helpless. The uncertainty of the process alone is enough to throw anyone for a loop. Addin the complexities of dealing with foreign countries, bureaucracy, and/or kids with special needs, and you have a lot going on. My family’s journey through adoption taught me that no one could do it alone. The process itself requires input and recommendations from more people than you may even think you know. If you can be humble enough to accept the lesson, then asking for help down the line will be no problem. If you feel your mental health is impacted, talk to a therapist. If you have questions about special needs, speak to a doctor. If you notice conflicts in your marriage, work them out. If you realize your child needs something you cannot give them, find out how to get it for them, even if it means admitting that someone or something else is more equipped to meet their needs than you are. If you need help, put any excuses aside and get it.

I do not know what happened to that girl in India after she was returned to the orphanage. I will probably wonder about her for the rest of my life. I know that all the authorities involved are asking themselves what they could have done differently to keep it from happening. Now, you know what you can do, too.

If you need to have a difficult conversation about canceling an adoption, start with a lawyer who can give you true and honest facts about your situation. If you think that’s me, click here to schedule a no-cost coaching call.

Choosing Adoption

Congratulations. By reading this, you have overcome doubts, fears, and hurdles that keep so many people from even considering adoption. So, again, congratulations.  

Full Disclosure: My husband and I chose to build our family through adoption. I am an advocate for loving, healthy adoptions. Everyone will have their definition of what that means. So, take my opinion as just one of many.  

The decision to adopt is not singular and isolated. It is ripe with other choices that will start hitting you the moment you tell someone you want to adopt a child. When I chose adoption, I also chose these seven things.  

  1. You are choosing to be an open book whose fine print is constantly under a microscope.  

When you choose to adopt, you are also choosing to open up your entire life. At some point in the process, you will need to document everything about your health, finances, career and education, relationships (good and bad, past and present), and future plans. You will document it all, sign it, and probably get it notarized (and, if you’re adopting internationally, then apostilled as well). This will happen multiple times for different entities, and once you feel like you’ve done it all, you’ll have to go through it all again with regular updates. People will ask you questions about how and why every detail of your life is the way it is, and you are expected to explain in clear, concise terms. By the end of the process, there is little (if anything) left about you that will feel like private information.  

  1. You are choosing to rise above the judgment of others.  

Adoption means being judged based on all the information you give to complete strangers. It also implies fielding positive and negative comments from others in your life. A common nuisance among adoption parents is being seen as a hero or a savior. As tempting as it is to correct people when they say things like that, you quickly learn that you cannot correct everyone and that how you feel about yourself is none of anyone else’s business. The positive and negative judgment runs rampant during the adoption process and lingers around long after the process is over. As an adoptive parent, you choose to rise above the judgment, compliments, and criticism and focus on your family.  

  1. You are choosing to spend money…a lot of money.  

Adoption is expensive. It is like having a biological child but without the option of insurance coverage or public assistance. Some forms of adoption are advertised as free, like adopting from foster care, but even those routes come with expenses you should be prepared for. What surprised me the most about the cost of adoption was how often we were expected to write big checks to people we barely knew when we didn’t understand what they were for. The agency had fees that were never truly explained, although they all had fancy titles and labels. But, then, there were little expenses, LOTS of them, that added up very quickly. I recommend talking to people who have walked your specific path to adoption and being genuinely prepared with a contingency budget. Thankfully, several grants and loans are specifically for people choosing to adopt, and they are not necessarily awarded based on income.  

  1. You are choosing to campaign and possibly date. 

I was surprised by the amount of marketing and salesmanship involved in the adoption process. Prospective parents, especially for domestic adoptions, make photo books and other materials to promote themselves to potential birth parents. Children available for adoption are presented in profiles similar to online dating. Information is cleverly highlighted or left out based on the package’s overall appeal. As I type this, it sounds disgusting. And yet, it is a reality of the adoption world.   

  1. You are choosing to be different.  

I would love to tell you that adoption has become so mainstream that it is not considered “different” anymore. But the truth is unless I am talking to a fellow adoption parent or someone who works with different types of families, I still get “the look” when I tell people that I adopted my daughter. I still have to educate people about what it means to adopt and how that impacts my daughter and my family. At times, especially at the beginning, it also means parenting differently to help facilitate bonding, address healthcare needs, and transition into a family. Finding a community that “gets it” is key to understanding that you are not alone because traditional mom groups and discussion boards will not work.  

  1. You are choosing to love above all else.  

Adoption has a way of bringing out dysfunctions in all areas of your life. You will encounter plenty of reasons not to do it, maybe even thinking that you are not good enough to handle it. There are arguments from all sides of the triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees themselves), both for and against adoption, and all those arguments are valid. However, when you choose to adopt, you choose to love in place of all the doubts, all the arguments, and all the potential outcomes. If you can master this alone, you will master the mindset of the adoption process. 

  1. You are choosing to parent.  

You choose this first, and then in the process of everything else, it gets lost until the end. Adoption is a long, heartfelt, dramatic journey for many. It is so easy to get lost in the process that you lose sight of what you are choosing long-term. For first-time parents who choose adoption, this last part seems so apparent and yet comes as a slap in the face. When you decide to adopt, you are choosing to parent a child. That means you are committing to being their person, their family, and their everything. You are choosing to parent through the inevitable trauma that makes adoption necessary in this world. You are committing to it for life. As a dear friend told me, “Motherhood is who you are, it is not something you just do.” 

The decision to adopt is a big one. The steps involved can be intense. The experience will test you on all levels. Now, on the flip side of a complicated international adoption, I will happily share my experiences with anyone looking to bring a child home. I will not lie and say that the challenges seem small in retrospect or that it wasn’t a big deal. What I will say is this: it was worth it. 

Adoption is a big decision. Before you jump in, make sure you have answers to all your legal questions. To book a no-cost coaching call with me, click here.