Helping new families through my practice is one of the great benefits of my job. It soothes my soul because I know the family will be protected sooner rather than later and we will all sleep better, though the infants rarely have a tough time sleeping soundly.
However, becoming a new parent isn’t always easy. The gamete meeting sometimes just doesn’t take place as soon as we want it to; sometimes our gametes just don’t want to meet at all. On these occasions, Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) can play a very important role. However, ART can be costly, financially and emotionally. I was on a panel with Lambda Legal a few months ago and an audience member referred to the financial program designed by his company to help parents with this issue as the “Build-A-Baby” program. This particular department helped couples design their financial planning so they could afford ART, which can cost thousands of dollars per month and when you factor in particular types of adoptions, the final costs can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, as mentioned, that’s just the financial burden. The emotional burden of waiting and hoping is equally heavy, if not heavier.
As opposed to ART, either parent or both parents can take an alternative route and adopt. Still, just as with ART and as above sometimes including ART, adoption can be costly and is always emotionally burdensome.
Consequently, it is critical that parents understand how they can protect each other and their families at the very beginning, even, sometimes, before the birth occurs. Another panel I was on recently described it as “Building Your Family Fortress.” The following are the cornerstones for today’s family, whether you use ART, adopt, or your gametes meet the old-fashioned way:
- Obtain life insurance that will at least replace the primary wage-earner’s salary for 3-5 years.
- Have powers of attorney – healthcare and property (what some states refer to as including “advanced directives”) prepared for both parents. Free drafts of Illinois powers of attorney are available here.
- If you’re a same-sex couple, be sure if one of you is the biological parent, then the other adopts the child. The U.S. is still a patchwork of states, some recognizing your legal rights in a Civil Union or same-sex marriage, and others not. The same applies for straight couples who are not married and one parent is the biological parent.
- If you’re using ART with an unknown donor, the parent carrying the child should designate the other parent as a short-term guardian to go into effect at some point in time until the adoption is complete.
- Obtain valid wills, irrespective of the gender-orientation of your relationship because you need to ensure that the guardian of your child is who you want the guardian to be in the case of your death. For straight couples, it is critical that you name a successor guardian.
Other blocks can also be used, but these 5 bricks represent the cornerstones of a solid fortress that will protect your family now and in the future.