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Michele A. Zavos

Michele Zavos’s Answers

19 total


  • Guardianship and birth father's rights when the child doe not carry his last name

    My unmarried granddaughter abandoned her daughter and left her in the custody of her mother (the child's grandmother). The child has her mother's name, not her father's. The father is giving my daughter a hard time about visitation rights. M...

    Michele’s Answer

    As a MD attorney, I am able to answer your question with respect to MD law. The birth father and birth mother have the same legal rights to custody and visitation, and the same responsibilities under the law to provide child support for your great granddaughter (that is your relationship to the child, correct?). However, if your granddaughter is worried about the child's safety, she can raise that with a court if the birth father brings a visitation action. Although the birth father has a legal right to see the child, in many instances birth fathers do not go to court to enforce their rights. Until the birth father does that, your granddaughter may impose any limitations she wants to his visitation. The danger there, however, is that the birth father can take the child at any time and not return her. He has that right under the law until there is an outstanding court order describing both parents' custody and visitation rights to the child. The child also has a right to receive child support from her birth father, but it sounds like your granddaughter will have to go to court to obtain child support.

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  • Step Father last name added to step child's birth cerrtificate or gaining some type of legal guardinship for step daughter?

    I got pregnant 10 yrs ago and did not list the father on the birth certificate. I never saw him again. I got married two years ago and would like to add my husbands last name to my daughters(she has my maiden name). We would also like to get so...

    Michele’s Answer

    Hello - I am a MD attorney so can answer your question in accordance with MD law. There are several issues you have raised: 1) Can you change your daughter's last name to your husband's? 2) Can you have your husband obtain guardianship of your daughter without obtaining permission from her birth father? 3) Can your husband adopt your daughter without finding her birth father? Here are my general answers without knowing more specifics about your situation. 1) Most likely you can change your daughter's surname without finding and obtaining permission from her birth father, as long as the name change is for no fraudulent or illegal reason, like hiding your daughter from her birth father. 2 and 3) Actually, legal guardianship and adoption are similar. You will need to look for the birth father in order to have a Court grant either guardianship or adoption to your husband. That being said, the process of stepparent adoption is not difficult in MD, and you may only have to send notice to the birth father at his last known address. You may have to publish a notice in a newspaper of general circulation where he lived the last time you knew his address. It is very likely that he would not come in to contest the adoption. However, it sounds like there are some facts here that may give you pause in trying to find him. If you don't pursue a stepparent adoption of your daughter, there are some legal documents that you should have prepared to protect her relationship with your husband, for example, a Will and a Designation of Standby Guardian.

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  • Adoption by step parent

    What are some ball park figures on the cost of an adoption of a child by a step parent. The non-custodial parent is agreeable.

    Michele’s Answer

    As I don't practice in New Mexico, I can only give you a general answer regarding fees for a step parent adoption. First, if the non-custodial parent is agreeable, the cost will be significantly less than if he or she objected to the adoption. Although you may be able to do this yourself if your court has available forms, I recommend you have a lawyer take the non-custodial parent's consent. You don't want that person coming back and saying he or she didn't understand what they were doing. It's really best to have a lawyer handle the entire adoption. In the Washington, DC metropolitan area where I practice, a step-parent adoption, with a consent, would probably run about $ 3000. Good luck.

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  • Can a single parent adopt?

    I am recently divorced and have residential custody of my 2 year old son. I really want more children and would like to know what my chances are of adopting. As a single mother, is adoption a possibility? If so, what are the special challenges?

    Michele’s Answer

    You have asked a very general question that is not state specific, so I can give you an answer. Single individuals are not prevented from adopting a child, although I am not familiar with the laws in every state. The real challenge is to work with a public or private agency that will be supportive of how you want to build your family. Don't reinvent the wheel. Be sure to talk to someone, usually an attorney, who can point you to a public or private agency that works with single individuals. You can work with a private agency in any state, you just have to have a local social worker do your home study. You can also pursue a private adoption - one where you find the birth parents who want to place their child for adoption with you. It's best if you consult with a knowledgeable adoption attorney. Paying for an hour or two of attorney time will save you lots of time and money down the road. You can find someone in your area through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

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  • Help, Steps to getting my husband adopting my daughter

    My husband would like to adopt my daugher. He has been taking care of her since she was 3 years old. Her biological father does not have any rights to her and it not on her birth certificate. He lives in Missouri, which is where myself and daughte...

    Michele’s Answer

    I do not practice in New Mexico, so I can only give you general information. It seems to me that you are asking two things: 1) Can your husband adopt your daughter, and 2) Can you change your daughter's last name. For the change of name, you probably can do that on your own. However, I would recommend that you do the step-parent adoption as your husband is really your daughter's father. During the course of the adoption you can change her last name. In order to have your husband adopt your daughter, you must either get her biological father's consent, or have a court waive his consent to the adoption. If the biological father has not developed a relationship with your daughter and has not supported her financially, a court will almost certainly grant the adoption. You don't say how long your husband has been raising your daughter, but if it has been for over a year, and her biological father has not been involved, you should be able to obtain the step-parent adoption. I strongly recommend that you work with an experienced adoption attorney, who you can find through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. Best of luck.

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  • Step-parent adoption

    what are some ball park figures for the cost incurred during an adoption by a step-parent. The non-custodial parent is agreeable

    Michele’s Answer

    As I don't practice in New Mexico, where I assume you will file the step-parent adoption, it is impossible for me to give you an actual figure. However, that being said, attorneys generally bill for this kind of work in two ways - either flat fee or by the hour. The most important thing here is that you go to an EXPERIENCED adoption attorney. Many attorneys will tell you they can represent you in this type of case as it does not sound like it will be contested. But, you need someone who knows exactly how to proceed with your step-parent adoption. If you hire someone who is experienced, you will keep costs down. In the Washington metropolitan area where I practice, a step-parent adoption that is not contested (extremely important distinction) would probably cost several thousand dollars. You can find an experienced adoption attorney through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

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  • Third party custody

    I have third party custody of my great nephew and am planning on moving from Seattle to Los Angeles. I want to adopt him and his mother is willing but the fathers whereabouts are unknown and his family will not disclose his location. Can I move th...

    Michele’s Answer

    As I am not your attorney, I can only give you general advice. If the mother is willing to consent to your adoption, you will have to then either obtain the consent of the birth father or have his consent waived. The law in this area differs from state to state, but in general, if a birth parent has not financially supported a child, and has not "grasped his opportunity interest" to create a relationship with that child, our Constitution will allow an adoption to go forward even over a birth parent's objection.

    In order to comply with the Constitution's requirements of "due process" so that a birth parent's rights are not terminated improperly, you will have to serve him personally with a notice of the adoption proceeding, or, if you can't find him after making reasonable efforts to do so, a judge will allow you to "post" or "publish" notice of the adoption proceeding.

    If the birth father does not respond to efforts to find him and notify him of the potential adoption of his child, the court will waive his consent and allow the adoption to be granted. But, you must have an experienced adoption attorney help you with this. It is complicated, and problems can occur if it is not done properly. To find an experienced adoption attorney in your area, go to the website for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

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  • Third party custody

    I have third party custody of my great nephew and am planning on moving from Seattle to Los Angeles. I want to adopt him and his mother is willing but the fathers whereabouts are unknown and his family will not disclose his location. Can I move th...

    Michele’s Answer

    As I am not your attorney, I can only give you general advice. If the mother is willing to consent to your adoption, you will have to then either obtain the consent of the birth father or have his consent waived. The law in this area differs from state to state, but in general, if a birth parent has not financially supported a child, and has not "grasped his opportunity interest" to create a relationship with that child, our Constitution will allow an adoption to go forward even over a birth parent's objection.

    In order to comply with the Constitution's requirements of "due process" so that a birth parent's rights are not terminated improperly, you will have to serve him personally with a notice of the adoption proceeding, or, if you can't find him after making reasonable efforts to do so, a judge will allow you to "post" or "publish" notice of the adoption proceeding.

    If the birth father does not respond to efforts to find him and notify him of the potential adoption of his child, the court will waive his consent and allow the adoption to be granted. But, you must have an experienced adoption attorney help you with this. It is complicated, and problems can occur if it is not done properly. To find an experienced adoption attorney in your area, go to the website for the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

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  • Sisters right to adoption

    My sister had a baby today and is giving him up. If I should want to get him is this different than a normal adoption and what are my rights. Can she change her mind and take him back.

    Michele’s Answer

    First, I am not your attorney, so I can only answer your question in a general way. To get a specific answer from an attorney in your state of Indiana, please go to the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website to find someone experience in this area of the law.

    Your sister does have the right to make her own placement plan for her baby. It would be extremely difficult for you to interfere with that plan as a parent has the right to decide what is best for their child. However, if you wish to adopt the child, your sister and the baby's birth father would have to agree. If only your sister agrees, it is still possible that your adoption could go forward, depending on the laws of Indiana with respect to the birth father's rights.

    If you actually complete an adoption, the child will be your legal child, just like you gave birth to him. This is still a "normal" adoption, but is generally referred to as a relative adoption. If an adoption decree is issued by a judge, your sister cannot change her mind and take him back unless she is able to say her consent was obtained by fraud, duress, or mistake. She has to make that charge within a certain amount of time from the date of the adoption decree. That amount of time differs from state to state.

    If you would like to adopt your nephew, you should see if your sister is willing to place the child with you. If so, you should obtain the services of an experienced adoption attorney as soon as possible.

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  • Problems with Probate

    My mother is trying to get her name put on our house but she seems to be having problems. I guess she's not on the deed or something but she and my dad both bought the house together. She showed me some papers that she and my dad had their names o...

    Michele’s Answer

    Normally when a married couple purchases real property together (your parent's house), they are both on the deed as tenants by the entireties, which is a way of holding real property that is specific to married couples. However, if your mother doesn't have a copy of the recorded deed, the first thing you should do is go to your county or city Recorder of Deeds and see if she is on the deed. If not, there are some facts missing here. If she is not an owner of the house (as evidenced by the deed), she will need to probate your father's estate. That means she will have to go through a court proceeding to pay off his debts and transfer his assets, the main one of which is probably the house. She can't just put her name on the deed just because she was married to your father at the time of his death. Depending on Florida law, if your father died without a will, she will either get all or part of his estate, and you and any siblings may get part. She really needs to see a Florida lawyer to sort this out.

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