The Michigan Judicial Institute has just published its Adoption Benchbook, which provides recommendations to judges regarding the interpretation of adoption law.
One provision of the bench book addresses the issue of second parent adoption and recommends that
In July 2003 we sent a letter to all probate and family judges, articulating our criticisms of the MJI recommendations regarding second parent adoption, as well as advocating for an interpretation of
The letter reads as follows:
You will soon be receiving a bench book published by the Michigan Judicial Institute, which provides recommendations to judges regarding the interpretation of various
The Michigan Judicial Institute (MJI) was developed by the Michigan Supreme Court in 1977 to provide judges and court personnel with the opportunity to develop and enhance their professional skills. MJI is a training division of the State Court Administrator’s Office of the Michigan Supreme Court.
One provision of this bench book addresses the issue of second parent adoption. The book recommends that
We strongly disagree with this recommendation and believe that it does not accurately reflect
Furthermore, we are concerned with the process by which this provision was written. It is our understanding that chapters for the bench book are written in consultation with an advisory committee where members have the opportunity to comment on certain provisions and subsequent revised drafts are submitted for approval. A final draft on second parent adoption, which had been reviewed and approved by the advisory committee, was suddenly and drastically revised, presenting a different analysis than had been agreed upon by the entire committee. This draft was sent to one committee member with the statement that he could comment on it, but regardless of his concerns, the draft was going to the printer that day.
Second-parent adoption law and the best interests of the child
No higher court in
In fact, the chapter refers to only one Michigan case in support of its analysis, In re Adams, 189 Mich App 540(1991), and that case did not involve an adoption by unmarried partners. In re Adams involved an adoption by two married individuals.
However, the individuals were not married to each other; they were married to other people. Furthermore,
“(T) He concept of the best interests of the child has long been the polar star for judicial guidance in cases involving children.” Matter of Schejbal, 131 Mich App 833,835 (1984), citing Corrie v Corrie, 42 Mich 509 (1964). MCL 710.46 (1)(a) requires all adoption proceedings to consider the best interests of the adoptee, which include the capacity and disposition of the adoptive parties to provide the adoptee with love, affection and guidance. MCL 722.23.
The analysis of second parent adoption contained in the bench book disregards these best interest standards, solely focusing on the marital status of the adoptive parents, which we believe takes the focus away from the needs of the child to be adopted.
In conclusion, we believe that the provision on second adoption that you will receive in your bench book is inaccurate. We urge you to consider the issues raised in this letter, when reviewing the bench book provision on second parent adoption.
Kary L. Moss, Esquire
Executive Director LGBT ProjectHenry Grix, Esquire Hanley Gurwin, Esquire Deborah Labelle, Esquire Monica Linkner, Esquire Monika Sacks, Esquire