Copy
View this email in your browser
Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC

Greetings and Happy New Year! Thank you for subscribing to the newsletter for Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC. This newsletter keeps you informed about the legal and activism work we are doing to support LGBTQI, polyamorous, chosen, and families of all kinds!
 

In this newsletter:
A positive way to use this winter, & great news from 2020!

 

  • Protect Your Rights - Get Your Will & paperwork in order!
  • New Multi Partner Recognition Coalition with Harvard Law School
  • FREE Sex Work Survival Guide Summit - Jan 9-10, 2021
  • Diana on Good Morning America - Link to view!
  • ICYMI: Diana in The Rise of the Three-Parent Family in The Atlantic 
  • Bill Singer’s End-Of-Year Message: Some Great news for LGBTQIA rights!
  • December 2020: Pep Talks For Sad Lawyers With Your Buddy Andy
Protect Your Family and Your Rights:
Get your Will & paperwork in order!

Most of us are looking at a long covid-era winter at home. There is opportunity to use this time well; for many of us, there may never be an easier time to do your Will or other essential legal paperwork to protect your family. If you are LGBTQIA, or in a non-nuclear or multi-partner or multi-parent family, getting protective paperwork in order is essential to protect yourself and your family for an era of a conservative Supreme Court, an unpredictable Senate, and the COVID-19 pandemic still raging. 

When we do safety planning with our own families and with our clients, we focus on using the things that we know we can rely on, in order to make contingency plans for the things that we can’t control. Check out our Protect Your Rights page, and get in touch with us if you would like to see how we can support you and your family during these trying and uncertain times. We can help you create more legal security for your family that will give you peace of mind.

In particular, if you do not have a Will, now is the time to get one.   

If you have a child under 18, you need an up-to-date Will to appoint a guardian to secure your child’s safety if something should happen to you. 

Do you have a health care proxy? Everyone needs a health care proxy to appoint a trusted person to make medical decisions for you if you are hospitalized and cannot speak for yourself, such as if you are on a respirator.

If you have unmarried or polyamorous partners, you need a Hospital Visitation Authorization to make it more likely (although not certain in the instance of coronavirus) that your partners could visit you in the hospital.

If your family relationships are ones that the state might not recognize, we can help! Agency documents like Powers of Attorney and Medical Advance Directives will protect your family in case of crisis, and we counsel clients through the creation of their Wills and any other estate documents necessary to ensure that their self-determination and family self-determination can survive illness and even death.

We’ve been doing this work for queer and nontraditional families for more than a decade. We’ve created a package of Advance Directive documents tailored to be most effective for LGBQ clients, for transgender and gender non-conforming clients, and for clients in polyamorous or otherwise non-traditional families, including:

  • Wills
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Comprehensive Medical Advance Directive, Living Will and Health Care Proxy
  • Testamentary Trusts
  • Assignment of Guardianship for minor children 

We offer these packages at a flat fee of $1500 for a single person, $2800 for a couple, or $3500 for a triad. (Note: This assumes your finances and wishes are not complex - we have a short intake to determine if you qualify for the flat rate.)

We are doing our best to make these services available and financially accessible to everyone during this difficult time. If you’re ready to take these steps to protect your family relationships, please get in touch with us.

Multi Partner Recognition Coalition:
New Collaboration with Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic

Our sister non-profit legal services organization, Chosen Family Law Center (CFLC), has been delighted this year to collaborate with Harvard Law School LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, as well as therapists and LGBTQIA advocates on the new Multi Partner Recognition Coalition! After the success of multi partner domestic partnership in Somerville, MA, the MPRC is drafting model multi-partner domestic partnership ordinances for several cities, as well as what may be the very first non-discrimination ordinances related to relationship structure.  

Check out our fledgling webpage for MPRC and join our mailing list at CFLC to stay tuned for more exciting developments!
FREE Sex Work Survival Guide Summit Weekend
January 9-10, 2021

Join Diana for the Sex Work Survival Guide Summit on January 9-10, 2021 where they’lll be speaking on legal & family law ramifications of sex work & adult film work for those who are or may become parents! There will be lots of valuable legal info for poly and kinky parents as well. 

Diana’s talk is scheduled for January 10 at 9:20pm.  See the full schedule here.

This online summit weekend is FREE and a valuable resource for the very marginalized community of sex workers, and will be LGBTQIA and BIPOC affirming and inclusive. It is FREE to attend or to watch later when its hosted in the PornHub wellness section. 

Please share to spread the word to those who need this resource! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sw-survival-guide-tickets-130037613001

Diana on Good Morning America!

Last fall, our founder and Principal Attorney Diana Adams was interviewed by Good Morning America on ABC about the rise of three parent families and the need for legal protections for them for the sake of kids in them. The segment aired on TV on October 9, and the link is now watchable here:  

Good Morning America:  Three-Parent Families are the New Modern Families

Diana’s piece is brief but positive (at minute 1:35) and the overall story is a very positive portrayal of a wonderful stable three parent family, with one parent who is asexual and platonic partner of a couple. How amazing that diverse family structures are getting more and more mainstream!

ICYMI: The Rise of the Three-Parent Family in The Atlantic
In case you missed it, Diana was recently interviewed for this article in The Atlantic on 3-parent families!

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/09/how-build-three-parent-family-david-jay/616421/
 
Bill Singer’s End-of Year Message

Our wonderful Of Counsel Attorney Bill Singer, who sees our firm’s clients in NY but maintains his own practice in New Jersey, and leads the New Jersey arm of transgender name changes for our nonprofit partner Chosen Family Law Center, has written a summary of some of the important updates and milestones for LGBTQ law this year:

 

"Dear friends,

We have all experienced a calamitous 2020; each in our own way. I hope that you are managing and learning to navigate the challenges. Were it a “normal” year, I might be holding a seminar to give you an update on developments in LGBTQ+ law and politics. Please accept this written message instead. Here are answers to questions that I get asked repeatedly and some good news about two significant legal advances in New Jersey for our community.

Most asked questions:  Is my marriage at risk? Are our rights as a parent at risk?

No matter what happens, if you are married, your marriage is secure. The Obergefell decision by the US Supreme Court ruled that all states have to offer same-sex couples the right to marry. It is highly doubtful that the realigned court would overrule that decision.

Even were Obergefell reversed, existing marriages would still be recognized. The right to marry is controlled by state law definitions, not federal law. If you live in New Jersey, you will still be able to get married. The New Jersey courts, legislature and the Governor will not change our right to marry.

Just after only five years, the concept of marriage equality has become entrenched in our society. Businesses, insurance companies and other large entities don’t want to have customers and employees married if living in one state but not if living in another. The need for consistency overrides.

The attack on marriage equality will instead be aimed to limit which marriage rights and benefits are available to same-sex couples. Arkansas and Indiana tried to exclude a same-sex spouse from being named on a birth certificate. Fortunately, even with the change of justices, the US Supreme Court specifically rebuffed those attempts and reaffirmed Obergefell. The court held that same-sex couples are entitled to the “rights, benefits and responsibilities” of civil marriage “on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples.”

Another means of attack is for states, other governmental entities and courts to allow entities or persons “with deeply held religious beliefs” to discriminate against same-sex couples or to other members of our community, even if not married. Thus, a private school could be allowed to deny registration to the child of a same-sex family. Or, courts could rule that a municipal clerk can refuse on religious grounds to issue a marriage license to two people of the same gender. Or, as before the US Supreme Court right now, an adoption/child welfare agency run by Catholic Church and which receives governmental funding could be allowed to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in the placement of children.

Bottom line: Your existing marriage is safe. What marriage means and what benefits it provides are under attack. There is a campaign, mostly outside of New Jersey, to limit the benefits of marriage and to carve loopholes in state and federal anti-discrimination laws to exclude the LGBTQ community based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Good News

1) It is now much easier to obtain confirmation of parentage.

As of April 1, 2020, New Jersey has a new law which streamlines the process for a non-genetic, non-gestational parent to confirm their parental rights.

Many of you receiving this letter remember when we were working to convince judges to agree that a child could have two parents of the same gender. Back in the 1990’s, couples who sought judicial confirmation of their parental rights were required to do a full-scale home study as if adopting a child out of foster care, undergo fingerprinting and background checks and then appear before a Superior Court judge to be examined as to their suitability to adopt their child in their intact family.

Starting in the early 2000’s, when same-sex couples were allowed to obtain legal recognition of their relationship, Vital Statistics put both spouses name on the birth certificate. But in order to get the judicial confirmation of the parentage for a non-genetic, non-gestational parent, a couple still had to undergo background checks and a judicial hearing was still required.

Issuance of the birth certificate with both parents’ names led many couples to believe that the birth certificate meant that their parentage was secure. Reliance on a birth certificate as proof of parentage is misplaced and can cause problems. 

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that there are only three ways one is a legal parent in New Jersey: 1) you gestate the child, 2) you contribute genetic material, or 3) you obtain an adoption or parentage order. In other words, under New Jersey law a non-genetic, non-gestational parent has no legal status as a parent without a court order. A birth certificate does not confer parentage.

Non-genetic, non-gestational parents found that their parentage was questioned when they applied for government benefits, like Social Security disability, for their child. Also, if a non-genetic, non-gestational parent dies without a confirmatory adoption and without a will, their child might face hurdles to be recognized as an heir.

This year’s new law makes obtaining that court order much simpler. With the instigation and encouragement of Danni Newbury from the Union County LGBTQ office, I drafted the legislation.  Senator Nicholas Scutari sponsored the bill and guided it through the legislature.

Now a couple who was married or in a civil union at the time of the child’s birth can obtain a judgment confirming their parentage without any background checks or a hearing. The couple needs to show that their names are already on the birth certificate and that no one else has any parental rights.

With submission of those proofs, the court will issue a judicial order. That order is valuable. It is subject to full faith and credit throughout the United States. That means the same-sex parents can travel freely and move anywhere within the country and their parentage will be respected.

2) How cultural competency training has succeeded

For years now, with the support and encouragement of the New Jersey judiciary, many colleagues and I have led cultural competency training for judges, judicial staff, and other court personnel. All of that training is paying off.

There has been a sea change how judges and judicial staff treat members of the LGBTQ+ community. I see it practically every time I am in court. There is greater understanding of and respect for who we are and what our needs are.

The court amended the Code of Judicial Conduct to include prohibition of discrimination because of gender identity or expression, affectional or sexual orientation, marital status, civil union status, and domestic partnership status. Gone are the days when a judge could tell my lesbian couple clients doing a second parent adoption that they needed to establish a fund to underwrite their child’s future psychological problems.

On November 18, 2020, we got further evidence that training pays off. The New Jersey Supreme Court eliminated a rule requiring two newspaper publications during a name change process. This requirement was dangerous for transgender persons who were changing their name to align with their gender identity. Because these ads are on the internet, they became a permanent record exposing trans individuals to possible discrimination and bullying throughout the remainder of their lives.

In dropping the requirement, the New Jersey Supreme Court noted “the general barriers the publication requirement … imposes on self-represented litigants and litigants of limited economic means in addition to the safety and privacy concerns of transgender, gender nonconforming and non-binary adults.” (Bold added)

The Court stated that this action “will expand equal access to the court for people who are poor, self-represented and members of the LGBTQ+ community, including transgender women of color who disproportionately continue to be targeted victims of violence throughout the nation.” (Bold added)

We have come a long way. If you find yourself in a New Jersey courtroom, you should not fear discrimination or misunderstanding because of your gender identity or sexual orientation. If you feel you have been mistreated, there are avenues of address.

These two advances in 2020 give me optimism and hope as we start the new year.

Wishing you and your family and loved ones all the best in 2021.                               

Very truly yours,

Bill"
 

We are always so grateful for the work Bill does and how much he has given to the community in his many years of practice.  Thank you, Bill!

 Pep Talks For Sad Lawyers With Your Buddy Andy
In closing, as we enter 2021 we send these inspiring words from our Senior Associate Attorney Andy Izenson, who is also President of the National Lawyers Guild, NYC Chapter:

It feels like every day this year has been some new crisis. When we look ahead and try to integrate the frightening truth that many of the crises that we’ve been coping with aren’t dissipating and aren’t going to dissipate, and that the threats that global fascism, climate change, and white supremacist capitalism pose to our collective existence are only escalating, where can we turn to for hope?

Wishing you and your family,

        in whatever shape it may take,

               joy, solidarity, and resistance,

                    from the team at Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC,

                            Diana, Bill, Andy, and Amy

https://twitter.com/dianaadamsesq
https://www.facebook.com/pg/DianaAdamsEsq
https://dianaadamslaw.net/
Copyright © 2021 Diana Adams Law & Mediation, PLLC, All rights reserved.


Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp