Family Law

Judge's 'hunch' leads to successful adoption of baby found in subway


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The true story that began 12 years ago is one of unlikely coincidences.

A social worker finds an abandoned baby in the New York subway. He arrives in court to recount the discovery when the judge asks an unexpected question: Would he like to adopt the boy?

The social worker says yes, setting in motion an adoption that would change the lives of the social worker, Danny, and his partner, playwright and screenwriter Peter Mercurio. In an Opinionator column for the New York Times, Mercurio tells of their unexpected path to parenthood.

Mercurio and his partner had been together for three years when the judge posed the question, but they had never discussed adoption. Their finances were difficult, and they knew of the challenges faced by gay couples hoping to adopt.

“And while Danny had patience and selflessness galore, I didn’t. I didn’t know how to change a diaper, let alone nurture a child,” Mercurio writes. “But here was fate, practically giving us a baby. How could we refuse?”

A caseworker had assured the couple they would have plenty of time to prepare during a process that included parenting classes and a home study. But a week later when the couple appeared once more before the judge, she asked if they would like to take the baby home for Christmas, just a few days away. They said yes and spent a year as foster parents until the adoption was finalized.

At the last adoption hearing, Mercurio asked the judge why she had asked his partner if he was interested in adopting. “I had a hunch,” the judge said. “Was I wrong?” She then rose and congratulated the new adoptive parents.

When New York changed its law to allow gay marriages, the couple’s son suggested they ask the same judge to officiate. She said yes.

As the ceremony began last July in the judge’s Manhattan courtroom, Mercurio reflected on the events. “We weren’t supposed to be there, two men, with a son we had never dreamed of by our side, getting married by a woman who changed and enriched our lives more than she would ever know,” he said. “But there we were, thanks to a fateful discovery and a judicious hunch.”

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