One Year Later
When the one year custody hearing came:
If you remember from part 2, Sophia’s mom and dad had visitation rights to see Sophia whenever they wanted as long as they made plans for it with Mema. But we haven’t actually seen them since.
After the one year was almost up, Mema and Tom reconnected with the attorney to touch base on how the next steps were going to go…
Basically, everyone received a letter in the mail that the one year was coming to an end and there would be a follow up hearing to determine what would happen next. i.e. one more year of temporary guardianship to give them more time, permanent guardianship to Mema and Tom, or the option for adoption.
Everyone needed to respond to that letter to acknowledge what would take place, before the hearing was to be set.
That’s how it SHOULD have gone anyway…
Here’s what actually happened:
Grace and Tony never responded to that letter, so our attorney (who, keep in mind, was a JUDGE!) advised us that a fresh year guardianship would just CONTINUE automatically because she wrote those terms on the contract that everyone signed at court the prior year.
So, trusting our judge and our attorney, the one year passed and no one heard from Grace and Tony, so the guardianship just continued as it was in writing.
Meanwhile, Mema and Tom pursued an adoption through this attorney because everyone felt that Sophia deserved a sense of belonging. We felt that she deserved more than just custody or guardianship, she deserved to be chosen.
A few months pass...
Our attorney at the time made it seem like a pretty easy process to get her adopted, since this case was basically an abandonment situation, it would just fly in our favor for adoption… However, the process takes a loooong time. Lots of waiting on your attorney and lots of paperwork. Our attorney said adoption would just cost $3500 to file the paperwork and then she’d file it. Boom, Bam and Done. So Mema and Tom wrote her a check, and trusted she would file the paperwork and then it was done.
Unfortunately, its not that easy, and it didn’t go that way.
Our attorney was lying the entire time. First of all, the contract to “automatically renew guardianship” isn’t legal. So our attorney, the judge, wrote a faulty contract. By the time we discovered all of this, it had been 6 months since the “one year” mark. Which means we didn’t have guardianship of Sophia for 6 months. It actually dissipated because there was no response or follow up hearing. She was completely unprotected. She could have been taken away at any time with no legal protection.
Little did we know, out attorney knew all of this. She was lying, taking money, and NEVER DID file the paperwork. All that “waiting on our attorney” business, was her actually avoiding us, shoving us aside, keeping us in the dark, stealing money, and hoping we wouldn’t find out.
When we did finally find out, both Mema and Tom visited her office OFTEN trying to talk to her. Hours of sitting in the waiting room while she was “in a meeting.” She would hide, shove us off on her assistant, and even stopped coming to work to avoid all the clients she screwed over. (yes, come to find out, we weren’t the only ones.)
That case never did get closure. When we finally got ahold of her and said we planned to sue if we didn’t get our $3500 back for her NOT filing the adoption and basically taking money for doing absolutely nothing, she said “I got the guardianship back in place so I’m not going to refund your money, I think we’re even.”
We haven’t seen that $3500 yet, but for a family going through this sort of chaos already, we haven’t had the time and energy to focus on that. All we know is we need to get the guardianship back in place.
Moving to Spokane:
The list of reasons to uproot were pretty long: Between Sophia’s safety and NO attorney in the area willing to fight against the one who screwed us over, we had to leave.
Tom was already in Spokane helping a friend start a new business, so we packed up and replanted in Spokane, WA.
By this point, its January 2018. Almost a year after the guardianship had originally been lost.
Even though Sophia is blood family, it was horribly difficult to adopt her. Despite the fact that her parents had been MIA for almost two years, and no one on that end was responding to legal contact, there still had to be a long process of “opportunity” for her parents to get her back.
Our new attorney started the process for adoption.
The first steps are to serve papers, in person, that Mema and Tom were pursuing a legal adoption of Sophia. Once the papers had been served, they had thirty days to respond to fight against it. The trouble, and time consuming part, was trying to find them.
After the papers were served to each parent, and the thirty days were up, they were required to serve them papers again, and give them another 10 day chance to get her back. And then again! This process went on way too long in my opinion… The COST for all of this! Attorneys, doctors, therapists, hearings, process servers, private detective… Just to choose a little kid… It’s backwards it seems.
At this point her parents are complete strangers to her.
After going through this, I feel like any family willing to take on the life changing responsibilities of parenting someone else’s child, any child, and all of the financial challenges that already go along with that, shouldn’t be paying thousands for adoption as well. I can see it’s benefits, but maybe a case by case law for different situations. It’s just no wonder there are approximately 153 million orphans worldwide, and more than 443,000 children in the foster case system in the U.S. alone…
Sophia is FINALLY officially adopted! It took a very long time, and was official as of August 2018. Her new birth certificate arrived and it was as if her entire history was wiped clean. This little chicka has had a fresh start.
I know its not possible, but it’s almost as if she knew, because she has been a different little girl since. She’s learning to run, she’s trying new foods… Maybe its just coincidence, but I think God refreshed her spirit on that day. She’s such a happy little So So.
A word from Mema:
When you go through this process and you become a temporary guardian, at the end of a year you get to fill out a report about everything that has happened since you gained guardianship. I mean EVERYTHING! It’s a report that the courts require. Since there had been no visitation, no work on what was laid out for Sophia’s parent’s to accomplish to regain their rights to her, our attorney told us that the guardianship would automatically renew. That being said, I turned in my paperwork and Tom and I started discussing adoption. On July 1, 2017 we paid our attorney 3500.00 to start the adoption process. She told us by the end of summer it should be complete. Well, come the end of August we hadn’t heard from her. Not so much as a phone call. Long story short, we ended up calling the court house to check on the status because we could not get our attorney to talk to us. Guess what? The adoption was never filed and the guardianship was not in place either. (crickets). We did manage to get a permanent guardianship out of that office in place by Oct. 2017, but we never did get our money back. Now what do we do? Well I’ll tell you what I did. I got shingles. My nerves were so fried that it made me sick. Thanks to WEBMD, I was certain I had gotten bone cancer, I hurt so bad. This process is not for the faint of heart. And to make things easier, I was moving to be with my husband..I look back now and wonder how I did any of it. God is good all the time.
Once the move was complete, we went to work finding a new attorney. We ended up with a great attorney out of Portland and, what we went through was nothing like what we were told from our previous attorney. FBI background checks, fingerprinting, waiting, waiting, waiting. And yes, another pile of money. We had to hire a private detective to locate Sophia’s parents. We did not know their whereabouts and we could not move farther in the process until they were served papers…twice! Some of the paperwork has really stuck with me. I had to fill out a family history sheet. This covered both sides of Sophia’s family. Questions like medical and personality traits. Heather and I worked on this one together, as I did not know much about her side of the family. We had to be very careful what we wrote. You see, these documents are the sealed documents that Sophia will be able to open when she turns 18. It was somewhat emotional for me to write because it was about her mother, my daughter.
Fast forward…August 2018, adoption complete! The birth certificate reads that,Tom is her Father and I am her Mother. It is like I birthed her. It’s kind of weird. I felt like I needed to have a baby shower.
Next week we’re going to focus on how So So is doing TODAY! How far she’s come and the struggles we still face everyday.
We will wrap up this series with one final part straight from Mema herself. The raw emotions behind being the mother of a drug addict and becoming a mother again at age 50.
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Mema will be available for any questions and support needed.