Today was a special, historic and beautiful day. A day filled with joy, love and hope. Today we finalized the first same-sex married couple adoption in the Eighth Judicial Circuit.
I had the honor to represent George and Jason, a loving couple who has been together for many years and whose marriage was finally recognized in Florida in December of 2014. George and Jason opened their home and their hearts to Michael last year.
Michael, a thirteen year old who has spent the past four years in foster care, longed for his forever family while bouncing from home to home. As a Guardian ad Litem Program attorney for many years, I knew many children like Michael. It was heartbreaking to see these children grow up in our foster care system. While there are many amazing and wonderful foster parents in Florida, it can be extremely difficult to find a good fit for older children. Even with wonderful foster parents, Guardian ad Litem volunteers, compassionate and hard working caseworkers, these children often flounder. Michael’s excellent and committed attorney commented, “As much as I have enjoyed being in his life, he needed a FAMILY, not another nice adult.”
When Michael met George and Jason in 2014, they all knew within days that their family was finally whole. Michael has thrived while in their care, recently being accepted into the prestigious Cambridge Program at his local school. They enjoy traveling together as a family with a cruise and trip to Washington DC planned this summer. After their adoption hearing, Michael proudly proclaimed, “I am a Stark, DCF is behind me, I love my two dads and you are mine forever!”
While gay individuals have been able to adopt in Florida since The Third District Court of Appeal’s Gill decision in 2010, they have had to adopt individually and not as a married couple. With Judge Hinkle’s ruling in December of 2014 in Brenner v. Scott, same-sex marriage is now recognized in Florida. These decisions brought us to today. A day where the legal system helped a boy know deep in his being that he would be loved forever and a family was finally given the respect they have earned. A special day indeed.
The Adoption Tax Credit was recently made permanent by the legislation Congress passed to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” Congress can still choose to alter the credit in the future with legislation but the credit no longer has to be renewed and revisited each year. The credit applies to ALL adoptions (even foreign re-adoptions) except for Step-Parent adoptions.
The maximum credit is $12,970 and the credit begins to phase out for families with incomes above $194, 580. It phases out completely for families who make more than $234,580. The credit is a dollar for dollar reduction in the amount of federal taxes owed.
The credit is no longer refundable. This means that only families who have federal income tax liability will be able to use it. Families should still claim the credit because the credit can carry forward and families have up to five years to use the credit.
Families who adopt special needs children still qualify for the full amount of the credit and do not need to document adoption expenses. A special needs determination is still required. Children adopted through the foster care system are almost always deemed special needs even if the child has no discernable true special needs such as a mental or physical handicap. Children who are handicapped actually do not automatically qualify for the special needs determination. There must be an active determination by the Department of Children and Families that the child is considered special needs.
The form is still Form 8839, http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f8839.pdf. Adoptive families should consult with a tax professional to ensure that their family receives the maximum benefit from the credit.
Adoptive Families often find the beginning of the adoption process overwhelming and intimidating. If you have experienced infertility, it is very important that you first grieve this loss sufficiently before jumping into an adoption. The next step is to gather information about adoption so that you can develop an adoption plan that fits your needs and desires for your family.
There is an abundance of information about adoptions available on the internet. A good place to start is www.creatingafamily.org. Creating a Family is a non-profit that provides education and resources about infertility and adoption. The Executive Director, Dawn Davenport, regularly blogs on adoption issues and her posts are interesting and informative.
If you prefer a book, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of great options. I would start by spending an afternoon at your local library browsing the adoption section. I found the “Adoption Nation” by Adam Pertman very helpful. Pertman provides an overview of the current state of adoption and details the pros and cons associated with the different types of adoptions. Scott Simon’s “In Praise of Adoption,” which details the adoption of his daughter from China, is one of my all time favorite books. Simon’s elegant prose describes his adoption experience with frank honesty and emotion.
One of the services that the Law Office of Mary K. Wimsett can provide is a complete overview of the many options and variables associated with adoption. As I stated last week in my blog to birth mothers, it can be overwhelming at the beginning of your journey, but it is absolutely worth it.
Many birth mothers who contact me begin our conversation by stating, “I just didn’t know where to begin.” Thanks to the Internet and the relatively new but increasingly frequent appearance of adoption in our popular culture, adoption is now part of our regular discourse and there is an abundance of information available. Unfortunately, there is so much information that it can be difficult to decide where to begin to learn about the process. Selecting the type of adoption you wish to pursue is the first step as this will allow you to narrow the resources you utilize.
You should start thinking about whether you prefer for your adoption to be closed or open and if open, the degree of openness. Birth mothers should craft an adoption plan that fulfills their wishes for their child but is also something that fits their own needs. Birth mothers should start thinking about the type of family that they would like to match with—single parent; infertile couple; couple with children; mixed race couple; couple living in small town; family who has adopted before; etc. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of variables. And if you don’t know or don’t wish to know, that is perfectly fine too. Some birth mothers chose a closed adoption where they do not meet the family or know anything about them.
You should then decide if they would like to work with an agency, an attorney or select the family directly. Each adoption entity provides a different experience so it is important to interview the entity. You should ask questions about their experience, services provided and also ask to speak with another birth mother who has utilized their services.
Finally, you should start thinking about what support you will need during your pregnancy. Florida law allows the adoptive family to provide the birth mother with financial support related to the pregnancy throughout the pregnancy and 6 weeks post partum. This means that the family can assist you with rent, utilities, food, health care and other expenses related to the pregnancy.
My office can provide a complete overview of the many options and variables associated with adoption. While it can be overwhelming at the beginning of your journey, it will make your adoption much more fulfilling if you have explored your options thoroughly.
My next blog will feature the first steps for the adoptive family.
This month marks the year anniversary of the Florida District Court’s finding that the Florida ban on gay adoption is unconstitutional. Hundreds of children who were languishing in foster care have been adopted by gay families during this year. A Christian and conservative commentator explains her perspective on this issue,
I receive a number of questions each week about the Adoption Tax Credit, hence the subject of this blog. The current Adoption Tax Credit will expire on December 31st, 2011. The current Adoption Tax Credit is fully refundable, which means that the taxpayer is fully reimbursed regardless of their tax liability. The amount of the current credit is $13,360 and the full amount is refundable if the child is special needs (almost all children adopted through Florida’s dependency system are considered special needs).
After December 31st, 2011, the Adoption Tax Credit will revert back to the pre-2010 credit amount (which was $12,170 but this number will be adjusted for inflation) and will NOT be refundable. This means, if you do not typically pay taxes, you will not receive the credit. This will remain in effect until December 31st, 2012.
There is an income limit with the credit decreasing for families with an adjusted gross income of $182,520 and the credit is completely eliminated for taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $222,520. You may be eligible to claim the credit even if your adoption does not become final. You must file a paper tax return, the IRS Form (8839) and documentation of the adoption. If you are adopting a special needs child, you must include the state’s determination of special needs.
There are no provisions for ANY Adoption Tax Credit after December 31st, 2012. This of course could change but it will require legislation.
Today’s Gainesville Sun contains an article on the 8th Judicial Circuit’s Guardian ad Litem Program (“GAL”). The article focuses on Kathy Donavan, the Program’s Assistant Circuit Director, who is an incredible asset to GAL and Florida. Kathy, like the hundreds of other GAL employees across the state, advocates for the best interest of children in dependency court. The GAL Program team consists of an attorney, a case coordinator/volunteer supervisor and a volunteer. The volunteers are the heart of the Program as they are the eyes and ears of the child.
As a former GAL attorney, I can attest without reservation that the GAL volunteer makes a significant and positive impact on the child they represent. There are not many volunteer opportunities that afford this opportunity. The GAL Program will be even more important and necessary if Governor Scott’s dramatic cuts to the Department of Children and Families are passed.
Many adoptive families raise the concern of potential drug use by birth mothers and the possible deleterious effects on the infant/child. Drugs are obviously potentially harmful. However, alcohol has proved to be much more damaging and with wide ranging long term negative effects.
Over the past few years, I have shared many articles on my FB feed about the dangers of fetal alcohol syndrome (FASD) and I am hopeful that these dangers are becoming a part of the discourse of proper pre-natal care given the increasing coverage of this issue in our national media.
This Canadian lecture breaks down the actual costs of FASD on individuals, families and society in general.
The costs are quite alarming, let alone the emotional and financial drain of caring for individuals with disabilites. This is a preventable disability-let’s prevent it!
I have received a number of calls in the past few weeks about the adoption tax credit. The IRS has yet to post the new form 1089 for 2010 but some have indicated that the new form should be ready by next week. As soon as it is available, I will post a link. Also, I have been told that turbo tax does not work for the credit but it will once the form is available (remember you will have to install the update). Remember, if you are receiving adoption subsidy from Florida, your child is considered special needs and you receive the FULL refund.
Dawn Davenport has a great page on her site with good information about this subject.
2750 NW 43rd Street, Suite 102
Gainesville, FL 32606
The Adoption Law Firm of Mary K Wimsett is located in Gainesville Florida but work with clients throughout Florida, including Ocala, Palatka, Palm Coast, Lake City, Daytona Beach St. Augustine, Orlando, and Jacksonville FL. Mary K. Wimsett has served birthmothers and families in counties throughout Florida, including, but not limited to, Alachua, Levy, Bradford, Gilchrist, Baker, Nassau, Flagler, Putnam, Duval, Marion, Sumter, Lake, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Volusia, and Brevard Counties. The Adoption Law Firm handles many adoptions in the entire 8th and 3rd judicial circuits.