October 2014


Thank you for taking a moment to read our fall newsletter. This quarter we discuss the intersection of immigration law and family law. We also discuss a new Colorado law that favors releasing adoption records and information to adoptees.


We then tell the story of Eli and Gabi, two kids who wanted their stepfather to be their legal dad. Stepparent adoptions are cases we handle regularly and which require experienced adoption attorneys, especially when contested.


I'm thrilled to congratulate my colleague Tim Eirich on receiving the Angel in Adoption™ award last month in Washington D.C. Tim was nominated by Representative Mike Coffman, based on a recommendation from Sherry Owens of the Colorado State Foster Parent Association.


And last, but not least, we highlight one of our newer agency partners, Hope's Promise. Their focus is to assist in domestic and international adoptions, as well as care for orphans in their home countries.


This summer my family was busy training for and competing in triathlons. I spent time training for the Harvest Moon Half Ironman, which took place on September 7. While this 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, and 13.2 mile run was tough, it felt great to cross the finish line! My wife, Stephanie, and I also did an Olympic-distance triathlon earlier this summer in Steamboat Springs. Finally, my 17 year old daughter qualified for and competed at the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championships in Ohio. She finished 56th in the United States which was quite an accomplishment!


Tim has been busy mountain biking and building retaining walls in the backyard to make more room for the garden, chickens and bees, as well as chasing his three small children.


I hope this upcoming season of holidays brings much joy and happiness to you and your family. If we can ever be of any assistance, please don't hesitate to get in touch by replying to this email or calling (303) 679-8266.  



The Intersection of Immigration Law and Family Law

It's all over the news: thousands of young undocumented immigrant children are coming into the United States. From October 2013 through June 2014, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended 53,000 unaccompanied children in the southwest border sectors alone.


These children left their home countries to seek refuge from extreme violence, recruitment and targeting by gangs, labor and sex trafficking, and severe poverty. Most have no path to legally stay in the county, but some may qualify to live legally in the U.S. by utilizing a federal law few attorneys know about called Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Others may derive legal status through being adopted.


The intersection of immigration law and family law was the topic of a presentation Seth Grob and Tim Eirich gave at two conferences in September. Based upon their extensive experience in helping children without legal status who are living in the United States, they were invited to speak together at the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (RMAIN) conference in Denver on September 10. This conference was designed to recruit and train attorneys interested in representing the many unaccompanied minors on a pro bono basis. Seth also spoke at the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys mid-year conference on September 20 in Philadelphia.


Their presentations focused on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), a federal law that assists certain undocumented children who have been subjected to abuse, neglect, and abandonment by a parent and whose interest it is not to return to their country of origin, in obtaining a permanent visa ("green card"). In 2010 only 1500 SIJS-based visas were issued of the approximately 9,000 available. If successful in obtaining a green card, these children have the right to live and work permanently in the United States and travel in and out of the country. They also have the ability to obtain a driver's license and are eligible for in state tuition at many state colleges and universities.


Kathleen Glynn, former managing attorney of Children's Program at RMIAN, said they wanted Seth and Tim to present because so many of their indigent clients are eligible for SIJS but the organization only manages the immigration portion and must partner with a family law attorney to get SIJS.


"Tim and Seth are so generous with their time," said Kathleen. "They are either taking pro bono cases for our clients or mentoring other attorneys. Few family law attorneys understand this issue. Seth and Tim have developed a unique expertise and are ethical, amazing attorneys."


Read the presentation here. 

Legislative Update: Personal and Identifying Information in Adoption Records


Recently Colorado passed a law (Senate Bill 14-051) that will open adoption records and information to adoptive parents of minor children and adult adoptees. The law was amended in favor of immediately releasing adoption records and information and to no longer condition access and disclosure based upon when the adoption was actually finalized as had been the case under the old law.


Under the new law, a state court must provide access to all adoption records for inspection and copying to the following specified persons: an adult adoptee, an adoptive parent of a minor adoptee, a custodial grandparent of a minor adoptee, or the legal representative of any such individual. Thus, any adult adoptee can now access their adoption records directly from the state court which finalized the adoptee's adoption. Adoption records include identifying information included in the original birth certificate, the final orders of relinquishment and termination, and other non-identifying information such as social and medical information.


With reference to the original birth certificate maintained by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, currently a Contact Preference Form is used to allow birth parents to specify the personal information they want shared with adult adoptees. Additionally birth parents can object to the birth certificate being released. The current contact preference forms, however, will only be used and recognized through 2015.   Starting in 2016, adult adoptees adopted after January 1, 2016, will have unrestricted access to their original birth certificate upon request. Birth parents will not be able to remove their name from the birth original certificate and adoptees will be able to acquire their original birth certificate once they are 18 years old.


"The legal effect of this new law is that birth parents can no longer require closed adoptions whereby their anonymity will be respected in perpetuity", said Seth Grob. "The new law is in response to adult adoptees pleas to be able to access information about their biological parents."


"This new law clearly shows that Colorado is moving toward a policy shift of releasing more personal information," said Tim Eirich. "This will change how we do business and especially how we advise our clients."

The Story of Eli and Gabi

The Importance of Expertise in Stepparent Adoptions
Eli was 7 years old when he started writing a new name on his papers at school, Eli Nichols instead of Eli Kalb. When teachers would call him Eli Kalb, he would say, "Don't call me that. I don't want that to be my name. I want the same name as mommy and daddy."


Eli's mother, Orna, had divorced Eli's father three years earlier, married Daniel Nichols and taken Nichols as her last name. Once Eli began requesting to be identified as a "Nichols," Orna and Daniel decided the time had come for a stepparent adoption.


It had been years since any of them had heard from Eli's father, Hassan Kalb. He had said he didn't want to see Eli, or his sister, Gabi, and had made no effort to contact them in several years.


But they knew pursuing a stepparent adoption could be stressful and complicated. During their relationship, Hassan had been verbally and physically abusive toward Orna and the children. For example, when Gabi was 3 years old she had made a mess with tissues in the upstairs bathroom. Orna's sister, Amy, was visiting and recalled what happened:


"Hassan started yelling at Gabi about the mess," Amy said. "Then he kicked her in her stomach so hard that her little body flew into the wall. I was literally in shock. I had never seen anyone do anything like that to a child. Gabi lay there for a few seconds and then she ran upstairs to hide from him. I went upstairs to look for her and eventually found her curled up in the back of her mom's closet crying quietly. Hassan left for work and didn't even bother to check on her."


Orna had tried to leave the abusive relationship many times, but she'd always returned. Then finally, in 2008, she had had enough. She escaped with the children to a home for abused mothers and children. The organization helped her to get a temporary restraining order.


"That was my escape. It was over for me," Orna said. She divorced Hassan, then met and married Daniel.


Hassan had scheduled visitations with the children, but it was only one weekend a month. He often cancelled or didn't show up, which meant months passed between visitation meetings. Hassan also continued his terrorizing behavior.


"There was a constant threat that he would send the children to the Middle East to be raised by his mother," Orna said.


Even though Orna had found a good job, for everyone's safety, they decided they had to leave. The family moved from the Midwest to Colorado in 2010.


Two years later, when Orna and Daniel decided to pursue the stepparent adoption, they met with Seth Grob who assigned the case to Tim Eirich given his experience in contested litigation. Orna was nervous about trusting Tim at first.


"It was like I was putting our kids' lives in his hands-like a surgeon [with my kids] on the table," Orna said.


Her husband, Daniel, recalled when he started to trust Tim. "The first time Orna broke down in the office while telling her story, that was when Tim had emotion in it too. We knew he was on our side. He was doing everything he could to win the case for us and for the kids, not just for the law firm."


On the first day in court, Tim presented his opening statement from the children's points of view.


"When he gave that opening statement, it was as if he was the children," Orna said. "A six-foot man speaking as if he was four feet tall. Then, I knew he was in 100%."


Ondine Craig, Tim and Seth's legal assistant, played an important supportive role. "Ondine was amazing in helping me feel comfortable in the court room knowing I had to face my abusive ex-husband after almost five years," said Orna. "Ondine kept me calm and sane. She is a valuable asset to the firm."


In order to prevail, Tim had to prove two facts: that the termination of Hassan's parental rights, and the subsequent adoption by Daniel, was in the children's best interests and that Hassan had abandoned the children for twelve months or more. Hassan's attorneys argued that the restraining order had prohibited Hassan from seeing the children and that Orna had kidnapped the children from the Midwest.


After three full days of trial, during which both sides called expert witnesses, the court ultimately agreed with Tim's arguments and terminated Hassan's parental rights and Daniel legally adopted the children.


"We handle contested litigation cases like this one, and we do them well," Tim Eirich said. "Terminating parental rights is a serious matter under the law and we take these cases very seriously. As such, it's important to work with specialists who not only know the Children's Code but also can litigate well. "


"Tim won my trust," Orna said. "Even if it had gone the other way, I know I had the best man for the job. And I have never been with a more compassionate attorney. Tim cared about my mental state, emotional state and physical state. It still brings tears to my eyes."


All names in this story have been changed.

Tim Eirich Recognized as an Angel in Adoption™
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) honored Timothy Eirich as an Angel in Adoptionat an awards ceremony on September 16 in Washington, D.C. Tim was nominated by Representative Mike Coffman, based on a recommendation from Sherry Owens of the Colorado State Foster Parent Association.    


Tim was honored based on his passionate and extensive experience as an adoption attorney. At the Law Office of Seth A. Grob, Tim specializes in representing prospective adoptive parents and adoption agencies as general legal counsel. Tim also represents foster parents and relatives seeking to adopt children in the child welfare system. Tim is an experienced litigator having tried over twenty-five jury trials, litigated dozens of contested hearings, and having argued in the front of both the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. Tim received the 2012 Excellence in Practice Award for a Juvenile Law Attorney at the Colorado Summit for Children Youth and Families and has been recognized as a Fellow with the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Tim has lectured frequently on adoption, the rights of foster parents, and on the child welfare system and is a regular presenter for the Colorado State Foster Parent Association. Tim also teaches trial skills to fellow attorneys as an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.


"I am honored by this recognition," said Tim Eirich. "All children deserve a safe, stable and permanent home and I am thankful that my work as an adoption attorney allows me to play a role in advocating for children who are often the most vulnerable."


Tim is only the second attorney in Colorado to be awarded an Angel in Adoption. Seth Grob was honored with this award in 2006 having been nominated by United States Senator, Mark Udall, and United States Representative Diana DeGette.


The Angels in Adoption program is CCAI's signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the excellent work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad. 



Partner Spotlight: Hope's Promise 
We highlight one of the many valuable partners we work with in each newsletter
Founded almost 25 years ago, Hope's Promise is a Christian-based organization with two focuses: in-country orphan care and international and domestic adoption. Orphan care currently serves orphaned children in Nepal, Vietnam, Kenya and Zimbabwe. They recruit, train and equip parents to care for the children in their native countries until adulthood. The program is 100% funded by donations.


The majority of the work of Hope's Promise is international and domestic adoption. They offer options counseling to over 100 pregnant women across Colorado each year. The majority of these women choose to parent and Hope's Promise helps them prepare to take care of their newborn. If they choose adoption, however, Hope's Promise assists these birth mothers throughout the adoption process. Hope's Promise serves the entire state of Colorado with their main office in Castle Rock and satellite offices in Grand Junction, Colorado Springs and Southwestern Colorado. In the next few months Hope's Promise expects to place their one thousandth child in a new adoptive home.


Earlier this year, Hope's Promise's partner attorney decided to scale back her practice. "I started doing research with anyone I could think of in the adoption field to determine who we should work with," said Beth Woods, executive director of Hope's Promise. "I consistently got the feedback that I should call Seth."


"Seth and Tim are very well versed in adoption law; they clearly know their stuff," said Beth. "They have the experience to deal with some of the complex cases we get including contesting or unknown birth fathers, as well as Native American heritage issues. They can guide us through those tricky waters. But I am also impressed by their willingness to be available to us. I know I can call or email them and get a response that is helpful within 24 hours."


"Beth is thoughtful, responsive and passionate about making sure the rights of the adoptive triad - adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees - are protected throughout the process," said Seth Grob. "And she has been open to some creative legal solutions in their agency's cases. We look forward to assisting this agency with their one thousandth adoption and hopefully many more!"


The Law Office of Seth A. Grob
12596 W. Bayaud Ave, Suite 390; Lakewood, CO 80228
303-679-8266  seth@sethgrob.com
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