GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — On a day to celebrate adoption in Kent County, one story stood out as unique, but not necessarily for the right reasons.
In Kent County 17th Families gathered outside Circuit Court on Thursday morning to finalize their adoptions to become whole. But due to an outdated Michigan law, Tammy and Jordan Myers were there to adopt their own biological children. As of Thursday, they were not recognized as parents.
After a cancer diagnosis in 2015, doctors told Tammy it was dangerous to bear children again. Still wanting to expand their family, the Myers turned to a surrogate, Lauren Vermilye, and her husband, Jonathan.
But Michigan doesn’t always recognize birth parents as the legal mothers and fathers of children born to surrogate mothers, and the Myers didn’t get help from the court for nearly two years. The birth certificate lists the Vermilye as the parents of twins Eames and Ellison to this day.
“It sucked the joy out of it for a while,” Tammy said. “It didn’t allow us to feel the excitement that we should have felt, so it’s almost like we’ve been trapped in this purgatory for the last 23 months.”
At no point during the pregnancy or after the birth did the Vermilye deny that the Myers are—and should be—acknowledged as the twin’s parents, but the law prevented this.
“The problem with the law is that there is no process that allows this to happen before birth,” said Melissa Neckers, the Myers’ attorney. “Finally having her listed as legal parents is tremendous, but it’s also frustrating that we’ve had to get to this point.”
On Thursday, while dozens of other parents were finalizing their adoptions, the Myers did the same, but had to have the Vermilye’s parental rights overturned by a judge. It was a final step in a long and strange journey for the Myers family – a saga they’re glad to finally have come to an end.
“It’s overwhelming, it just feels great,” Tammy said. “It’s been almost two years, I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
Now that their adoption is complete, the Myers have turned their attention to updating the state’s surrogacy laws to prevent something similar from happening to another family. They have enlisted the help of state legislatures, and there are currently a handful of pending bills that would fix the same problem that caused the Myers’ troubles.
“Adoption wasn’t set up for this type of situation, it was set up for children who don’t have parents or whose parents can’t take care of them,” Neckers said. “It’s a patch. We have to change the law.”