Family Law Clinic represents one couple, eight adoptions
October 2, 2009
The Adams family with the Hon. Kevin A. Hess ’72 and Family Law Clinic student Nicole
Berman ’09 in the Cumberland County Courthouse after the adoption hearing
When Vicki Adams first arrived at the Family Law Clinic in early 2008, she had an amazing story to tell. She and her husband, Darren, were not only raising their two children, Jaheim and Lynchelle, but were also raising her two children and his six children from prior relationships. Vicki and Darren desired to adopt each other’s children, to “make it a full legal family.”
The process was not easy. Nicole Berman ’09, a Family Law Clinic student, had to prepare multiple pleadings while she tried to locate the natural parents of each of the children. Some of those parents had not been heard from for years and had moved to unknown locations. The mother of one of the children went to great lengths to avoid being served with papers, even denying her identity to the sheriff.
Finally, in late October 2008, Berman represented the Adams family in the Cumberland County Orphans’ Court at six combined hearings to terminate the parental rights of the other natural parents. Only one parent showed up — thirty minutes late — and demanded a court-appointed lawyer. The judge continued the hearing, appointed one lawyer for her and another for her child, and scheduled a second hearing for early January 2009.
In March 2009, the Family Law Clinic was back in Orphans’ Court to finalize the adoptions. Every member of the Adams family attended, including the children to be adopted: Darrielle, Jerbray, Waliqua, Zenia, Darren Jr., James, Jonell and Mercedes. There was a certain amount of giggling in the courtroom as the children settled in their seats. Berman put Vicki and Darren on the stand to verbalize their intent to adopt. Each child took the stand and affirmed to the judge his or her desire to be adopted; each of the adoption requests was granted by the judge. Mercedes also requested her middle name be changed to Nicole, which the judge granted.
“Working at the Family Law Clinic was a fantastic learning experience,” said Berman. “It was incredibly empowering to know that my work, even as a student, had such a positive impact on the lives of such deserving clients. I would encourage any student, regardless of his or her career goals, to participate in one of the Law School’s clinics. I know I have learned skills that will serve me well throughout my legal career.”