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October 27--  It will be a special Christmas this year for two Toombs County sisters.  Twelve-year-old Jocelyn Walker and 14-year-old Breanna Walker will welcome their Dad home from Afghanistan where he's working as a government contractor.


At the courthouse in Lyons are (L-R) Courtney Joiner, Breanna and Jocelyn Walker, Judge Palmer and Shannon Walker.

Up until last week, Anthony Walker was the girls' step-father.  Then his attorney Courtney Joiner had the idea of a long distance adoption via the Internet and Superior Court Judge Kathy Palmer agreed.

"On the day of the hearing we all met in a private room here in the courthouse and we had the Skype set up.  The petitioner, the stepdad, was online and I could look at him and I gave him his oath looking at the computer monitor and he was all smiles ear-to-ear. We went through all parts of the hearing and everybody was crying and smiling and after all the testimony was received, I granted the adoption," Judge Palmer recounted.

{mosimage}Walker served as a soldier in Iran with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division before working in Afghanistan for a civilian contractor.  Via the internet, he said
"It's very excited and I'm very happy.  It's a first all the way around and I really enjoyed it.  I'll be home Christmas eve," he said.

The girls' mother, Shannon, says it's great to be "officially" a family.  "It's extraordinary.  I'm so grateful we were able to accomplish this without him having to come home," she said.

As for the girls, Breanna says, "It feels good, I'm so excited," and her younger sister says it means "now he can really be called Dad."

Judge Palmer says this is the first-ever use of the Internet for an adoption in the Middle Judicial Circuit and after this experience, she thinks there will be other opportunities to use the technology to save the court and its clients time and money.