By Wan Cheng Chan
All families are different. Unfortunately, not all families are equal.
When Elo and I met more than 9 years ago, we fell in love. Just like any other couple, we had dreams of starting a family one day and growing old together.
As two women from two different countries, we knew that our chosen life journey was not going to be easy. After fighting for our families to accept us, jumping through administrative hurdles to secure our marital and legal status, we were finally ready to have a child together.
However, if there was one thing that we had not expected on this journey to becoming a parent, it was the strong support we had received from our family, friends and even strangers. From conception, delivery and finally raising a child, we were surprised by the unexplainable bond that we had with others that wanted to help us succeed and become parents.
In fact, the biggest takeaway from all of this was realising that we were not alone. When we first wanted to know how we could even start a family, there was already plenty of help at hand thanks to readily-available resources and advice given by other same-sex families, both in Singapore and France. Looking back, the making of baby L was actually straightforward because we had guidance and just needed to follow medical protocols.
Hence, we knew our biggest challenge was going to be the fight for the legitimate recognition of our family after the birth of baby L. Turning once again to our community of same-sex families, we were able to get in touch with a French lawyer, Maitre R, who helped us launch the legal procedure to obtain the second parent adoption in France once baby L was born.
Second parent adoption is typically done when one LGBTQ partner is biologically or already legally related to the child and the “second” parent needs to establish the parent-child relationship legally. This process grants the “second” parent the same rights as the “first” parent without the legal parent losing any rights.
However, we knew we were headed towards unchartered territory because there were very few cases of bi-national, female, same sex couples requesting for second parent adoption in France. Our lawyer was particularly concerned due to the lack of adoption rights between our two countries for same-sex couples.
Given that we had already chosen to establish our lives in France, we had to make the tough decision to not claim Singapore citizenship rights for baby L in order to urge the French courts to apply French laws and allow Elo to adopt our son. However, we needed this decision to be substantiated by legal documentation.
As such, we contacted Susan Tay Ting Lan from OTP Law Corporation (who had previously helped us apply for our LPA and drafted our wills) to assist us in drawing up an affidavit to clarify the interpretation of Singapore law in our case.
Fortunately for us, Susan was able to tap into PracticeForte Advisory’s EU legal contacts and link us up with a French affiliate, Sabrine Cazorla Reverre, who was familiar with French family laws. A Skype call was quickly arranged with all parties and, shortly after, Susan had her team put together an extremely comprehensive affidavit explaining our difficulties of obtaining Singapore citizenship for baby L and the legal impossibility of the Singapore courts of ever permitting to Elo’s adoption of our child.
This document not only provided legal proof to substantiate our case, it also helped our lawyer and us better understand the application of laws on same-sex families in Singapore. In many ways, the document was a culmination of the EU-ASEAN connect showcased by PracticeForte Advisory.
A month later, we finally received a positive verdict regarding our adoption application. After 2.5 years of trying to have a baby and almost 2 years of legal limbo, we were finally, officially, a family.
While our journey to becoming a family was not easy, I feel hopeful for the future of other same-sex families. For each step taken, we were able to push social and legal boundaries as well as challenge opinions even if these were just miniscule changes. Most of all, we were only able to do all these thanks to our “village of allies”.
As a parent, I can only hope that baby L and his children will grow up in a world where families are no less equal, just because they are created differently.
“A special note of thanks again to Emelia Kwa, Sabrine Reverre from Rajan Chettiar LLC, Susan Tay and her entire team from OTP Law Corporation as well as PracticeForte Advisory for helping us in our fight for adoption”.