Adopting a child is one of the biggest decisions a person can make in life. The parent-child relationship is utterly unique. Choosing to establish such an intimate relationship with someone else’s child takes courage, commitment, and an incredible amount of love. But once you have made the decision, a flood of questions is likely to come to mind. How do I find a baby? Do I need help? What about adoption agencies or adoption lawyers? Are they necessary? How long does it take?
These and many more questions will likely arise as you take your first steps into the world of adoption. Washington adoption laws are complex, and an experienced adoption attorney can answer every single question that you have. They can be your dedicated and knowledgeable adoption partner who takes the guesswork and mystery out of the process and gives you peace of mind.
Types of Legal Adoption in Washington
In Washington State, there are four basic types of adoption.
- Traditional adoptions,
- Step-parent adoptions,
- Second-parent adoptions, and
- Guardian or foster parent adoptions.
Each may involve a slightly different process.
The type of adoption most people think of involves birth parents voluntarily giving up their child to be adopted by others. Commonly, an adoption agency helps connect prospective adoptive parents with birth parents. However, independent adoption is also an option.
An independent adoption is one that happens without the assistance of an adoption agency. A common example is when a birth mother and desired adoptive parents know each other or find each other independently. These people can work out the adoption among themselves without the help of an agency.
While there is no law stating that you must have an attorney help you through the adoption process, you would be very wise to seek out an adoption attorney’s assistance. Yes, you can try to complete the process yourself. But when people try to complete this entire, complex process without an agency or lawyer, things can fall apart quickly.
A step-parent adoption is pretty much what it sounds like. Let’s use an example to illustrate.
Suppose that Amy and Adam were married and had a baby girl named Alice. After two years, Amy and Adam get divorced. Three years later, Amy marries Tom who immediately assumes all fatherly duties and loves Alice as if she were his own. In a situation like this, Tom could petition the court to legally adopt Alice. However, one obstacle could stop him. As Alice’s biological father, Adam would have to voluntarily give up his parental rights or have a court terminate them involuntarily if necessary and appropriate.
Termination of parental rights
A parent can agree to have the state terminate their parental rights. Some people agree to this because they realize that their continued involvement in the child’s life is not ideal or because they do not desire to be a parent. This is common when a parent realizes that they do not have the ability, either financially or mentally, to care for their child properly. When a parent agrees to allow a court to end their parental relationship with their child, the court must still approve the termination.
Conversely, If the parent does not voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, having a court terminate those rights can be an uphill battle. But uphill battles can be won! Here are some conditions that might prompt a judge to terminate parental rights:
- Abandonment—where the parent has made no attempt to communicate with the child for at least six months;
- Mental instability or illness—when the parent has become mentally unstable and unable to care for the child;
- Permanent neglect—where the State has placed the child in foster care, over a year has passed, and the parent has made no plans for the child’s future or has not attempted to reunite with the child;
- Abuse—if a parent has perpetrated severe, continued abuse of the child, including but not limited to sexual abuse and neglect;
- Addiction—if the parent becomes incapacitated because of alcohol or drug addiction; or
- Felony convictions—when a parent is convicted of a violent felony, domestic abuse, or is serving a long prison sentence, they may lose their parental rights.
So in our example above, when Tom petitions the court to adopt Alice, Adam can agree to relinquish his parental rights. If Adam won’t do that, Alice can petition the court to terminate those rights over his objection. The court would hear arguments on both sides and make the final determination. If the judge terminates Adam’s parental rights, then the door is open for Tom to adopt her as his own.
In Washington, married couples, same-sex couples, and single people over the age of 18 can all legally adopt children. This includes single members of the LGBTQ+ community. Second-parent adoption happens when a gay single parent enters into a relationship and the new partner wishes to adopt the single parent’s child.
A foster parent or anyone else can petition the court to adopt a foster child if the circumstances are right. However, this could not occur until the State has terminated the parental rights of the child’s existing parents. Additionally, the State has very stringent requirements to adopt a foster child, so consulting an adoption attorney is the best way to maneuver through this complex process. But there are many children in need of a stable home, so it is truly worth the trouble.
Call Our Lawyers Today
At Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., our lawyers know everything you need to know about legal adoption in Washington. This is an exciting and emotional time in your life, so enjoy it by allowing us to guide you smoothly through this amazing process. We have over three decades of experience that we want to put to work to make your life easier. So call us directly or contact us online today to set up your initial consultation. We look forward to serving you!