For most Americans, bringing a child into the world is a cause for celebration. Champagne is poured, cigars are smoked and the couple’s home overflows with gifts.
Sadly, this is not the case for all pregnancies. When the child is unwanted a difficult choice has to be made: should the baby be aborted or put up for adoption. For those individuals who choose not to abort, the law firm of Shorstein & Kelly is there to make the adoption process as effortless as possible.
Michael Shorstein and Brian Kelly have been practicing together for over 10 years.
“I practice exclusively adoption law, matching birth mothers with adoptive parents and building families,” said Shorstein.
Kelly focuses on criminal defense with a dash of adoption law on the side.
The two recently moved into their new office in the St. Nicholas area.
The decision not to situate near the county courthouse was a conscientious one on their part.
Free parking and accessibility is a big lure for the firm’s clients.
“People would say to me, ‘I don’t have to come downtown, do I?,’” said Shorstein, the nephew of State Attorney Harry Shorstein who first practiced in the area of sports law in Orlando before his uncle cajoled him into moving back to his native Jacksonville.
Landing into adoption law was pure happenstance.
“I started out in this by accident about 12 years ago when a friend asked me to help with an adoption,” said Shorstein.
“It was an opportunity to work in an area of law where there’s nothing but happiness and good feelings. When I realized there was no one else around doing it, I made it my specialty.”
Shorstein has two children himself, son Mathew and daughter Benay.
His partner Brian Kelly has three children, son Palmer and daughters Lindsey and Peyton.
Both Shorstein and Kelly are graduates of the University of Florida.
Honing in on the domestic market, Shorstein’s firm shies away from adoptions abroad because of international law concerns and the less-than-stellar selection available.
“Most countries overseas don’t let healthy children go. They’re usually developmentally disabled,” said Shorstein.
In the United States, the average adoption costs anywhere from $18,000 to $22,000. The high price tag is due primarily to medical bills but also encompasses attorney fees, an evaluation by a certified social worker and other incidentals.
With a line longer than the DMV’s, couples hoping to adopt are often at the mercy of the birth mother/parents.
“For every healthy child there are 50 families waiting,” said Shorstein.
In Shorstein’s experience, most couples wishing to adopt do so because of an inability to conceive. On occasion, the birth mother/parents will use their “seller’s market” position to unfair advantage, making unreasonable demands for compensation.
“They think that because of the sacrifice they’re about to make, they’re entitled to something more than the law allows,” said Kelly.
Come October, the adoption laws will see tighter restrictions and more time restraints.
“It raises the cost and cuts out some families,” said Shorstein. “We believe because of the new statutes, the cost may increase as much as 20 to 25 percent.”
It’s been a real baby boom for the pair since they opened in 1992. A child is placed with adoptive parents through their office about every three days.
“When we first went into practice, the amount of adoptions was maybe 25 percent of the work,” said Kelly. “We used to do contractual and personal injury but we haven’t had the time to or wanted to do anything else.”
Currently the firm employs eight people, including the partners, and they expect to add two more employees later this year.