A Deltona couple weren’t sure when they’d be able to finalize the adoption of their twins during the coronavirus pandemic, but the 7th Judicial Circuit Court found a way for the family to move forward by holding the ceremony via a video conference call.
DELTONA — It wasn’t your typical adoption day ceremony.
The post-ceremony activities weren’t the average celebration, either.
"This is the COVID-19 edition," Kourtney Oliver said.
For Oliver and her husband Preston Hunt, the 5-year-old twins they’d been fostering since 2018 were family long before they arrived — the couple adopted the twins’ three older siblings in 2017 — but on Monday afternoon officially became a part of the full family.
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The Volusia County courtroom setting was replaced with a computer screen with the parties calling in via Zoom video conferencing software.
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While Circuit Court Judge A. Kathleen McNeilly ran the proceeding from her DeLand courtroom, the Deltona couple and their seven children, including twins Klarisa and Kevan, called in from home.
"It’s been a long road, but we’re very excited this day has come," Hunt said.
All manner of entities are adjusting to operating amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the court system is no different.
"Typically people bring their family and friends, and it's very ceremonial," Karen Persis, the family’s adoption attorney, said. "It's not a hard-hitting trial or anything, and by the time we get to the final adoption hearing, it’s a happy day."
At the conclusion of a typical courtroom adoption ceremony, there are usually hugs and photos with the judge, Persis said.
"Obviously none of that can happen right now with the court closures and coronavirus, so various circuits are making do in the best way that they possibly can," Persis said.
The attorney said she was grateful that courts were finding ways to move forward for these families.
"Of course it's a little disappointing that they can't have all of the hugs and the photos that are typically seen with the adoption ceremonies, but I think at the end of the day, most families, they just want to have that adoption done, they want to be legally named parent and child."
Before getting confirmation that the ceremony could be performed via Zoom, Oliver wasn’t sure when the adoption would be finalized.
"We really thought we were going to have to wait" until the pandemic was over, she said.
Adoption celebrations normally include lots of family and friends at the courthouse. That’s not happening right now. But not to worry.
Monday evening, the children got a surprise visit from Deltona firefighters, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and a drive-by party of family, friends and neighbors congratulating the family of nine.
"There wasn’t a whole lot we could do with everything that’s going on, so we tried to make this as memorable as possible," Oliver said.
Chitwood gave the twins green star badges and let them test out the sirens in his vehicle.
A crew from the Deltona Fire Department stopped by and gave the twins stuffed toy dalmatians.
"I didn’t expect all of this," Klarisa said.
Her brother Kevan, a little quieter than his sister, said his favorite part was "everything."