Superman had amazing parents with Jonathan and Martha Kent. In original Action Comics and the Fleischer Superman cartoons, Clark Kent grew up in an orphanage. The Kents were introduced early in the Superman mythos with different names. In John Byrne’s Man of Steel mini series retelling the origin of Superman, the Kents explained that “Clark’s” birth took place during a long winter (see the Superman Wiki for a detailed history).
Space babies crashing on Earth create an out-of-this-world legal problem: How do people who find the child legally adopt the infant? Alternatively, how does a couple explain a new baby in light of today’s medical care?
Children can be adopted in Kansas by any adult, or husband and wife jointly, but not without the consent of the other spouse. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2113. Those seeking to adopt a child must file an adoption petition. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2128.
Jonathan and Martha Kent would need one heck of a good attorney to help legally adopt Kal-El. The Kents would need to explain the following in their petition:
(1) The name, residence and address of the petitioner;
(2) The suitability of the petitioner to assume the relationship;
(3) The name of the child, the date, time and place of the child’s birth, and the present address or whereabouts of the child;
(4) The places where the child has lived during the last five years;
(5) The names and present addresses of the persons with whom the child has lived during that period;
(6) Whether the party has participated, as a party or witness or in any other capacity, in any other proceeding concerning the custody of or visitation with the child and, if so, identify the court, the case number, and the date of the child-custody determination, if any;
(7) Whether the party knows of any proceeding that could affect the current proceeding, including proceedings for enforcement and proceedings relating to domestic violence, protective orders, termination of parental rights, and adoptions and, if so, identify the court, the case number, and the nature of the proceeding;
(8) Whether the party knows the names and addresses of any person not a party to the proceeding who has physical custody of the child or claims rights of legal custody or physical custody of, or visitation with, the child and, if so, the names and addresses of those persons;
(9) Whether one or both parents are living and the name, date of birth, residence and address of those living, so far as known to the petitioner;
(10) The facts relied upon as eliminating the necessity for the consent, if the consent of either or both parents is not obtained;
(11) Whether the interstate compact on placement of children, K.S.A. 38-1201 et seq. and amendments thereto, and the Indian child welfare act, 25 U.S.C. have been or will be complied with prior to the hearing.
Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2128(a)
Ma and Pa Kent would have a very difficult time explaining their suitability to assume the parental relationship for a child they witnessed crash to Earth in an alien spacecraft. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2128(a)(2). What experiences do they have that would justify them raising an alien with super powers? What’s their plan for when the child with enhanced strength hits puberty? What about medical care? Or liability insurance?
Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: Can they help select inspirational theme music along the lines of John Williams?
It is unlikely that Jor-El included Kal-El’s Kryptonian birth certificate on the escape rocket, making it impossible for the Kents to explain Kal-El’s given name, let alone the time and place of his birth. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2128(a)(3). Providing Kal-El’s prior address would also be highly difficult, as a Kansan Judge could not take judicial notice of Krypton, or know the topography of Kryptonopolis. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-2128(a)(4) and (5).
The Kents could try the argument that they found the child and leave out the details of a crashing spaceship. Kansas’ Newborn Infant Protection Act sets out procedures for a parent to surrender an infant less than 45 days old to law enforcement, a fire station, or city/county health department. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 38-2282(b). From there, law enforcement is to be informed and take custody of the infant as an “abandoned infant.” Kan. Stat. Ann. § 38-2282(d).
Jonathan and Martha Kent could surrender the infant Kal-El to law enforcement, and seek the child’s adoption. This could also be highly problematic, as a doctor would notice Kal-El’s enhanced strength, and have difficulty giving the infant any immunizations or drawing blood. This strategy could end badly with the infant Kal-El being kept under state care.
Ironically, John Byrne’s Man of Steel series might have the least legally risky plan to explain Kal-El’s birth: Lie. While almost never the best policy, telling the lie “it was a long winter” as a cover story, would eliminate the infinite legal crisis of explaining how Clark Kent arrived on Earth. This cover story does require Martha Kent not having been seen for a number of months, which could make pulling off the story a challenge.
Here is the thing: Human parents don’t fully know what they are getting into when they have a child. Sure, they have a good idea, but theory and reality are two very different things. Despite the challenges, parents do the best they can. In the fictional case of Jonathan and Martha Kent, they are true heroes. It would have been easy to drive away or turn the infant refugee over to the authorities. Instead they made the choice of doing the hard work of raising a child. Thanks to their morality and sense of doing what is right, they raised the standard bearer of super-heroes who would stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.