Adoption is an exciting journey, that can also be difficult and frustrating, as well as fulfilling and joyful. Some individuals choose to adopt because they cannot have children or their own, while others want to increase the family they already have. Sometimes a stepparent who has been a parent to their spouse’s child is ready and willing to take on the role of parent legally, as well as in practice. No matter the reason, adoption is an active choice to choose and accept a child into a new family relationship. Adoption is a change to the legal status of the relationship between two or more individuals. It creates a parent/child relationship legally where one does not exist biologically.
Adoptions have an enormous impact on the biological and adoptive parents, as well as the child(ren). Because of this, our adoption attorneys believe that adoption cases should be handled with the utmost care and precision.
Adoption is the legal process to establish a parent-child relationship where that relationship does not exist biologically. There are a number of situations in which parties may wish to adopt a child; couples who want to become parents but otherwise may not be able to, a step-parent married to the biological parent of the child, custodians of a child who have stepped into the role of parent, or even older adults who wish to formally adopt an adult who has a parent-child relationship with them.
To adopt under Washington State family law, one or both of the child's biological parents must have had their parental rights terminated by a court. In some cases, this termination is involuntary. In others, one or both biological parents may willingly terminate their parental rights so that the child may be adopted by a new family, relative, or stepparent.
In any of these situations, it is advised - and even sometimes required by law - that prospective adoptive parents work with an adoption lawyer.
Domestic adoption primarily refers to the adoption of an infant, toddler, child, or young adult within the United States. This can include familial adoption (adoption of a stepchild to step-parent, grandchild to a grandparent, etc.) or non-familial adoption, in which the adoptive parents are not related to the biological parents or child.
The key requirement in the adoption of a minor child is that the child is “free” to be adopted. In practice, this means that the child does not have a parent (due to the death of a parent or parents), that the biological parent(s) are willing to voluntarily relinquish their parental right(s), or that the biological parent(s) are unfit and should therefore have their parental rights involuntarily terminated. At times, the State brings involuntary termination actions against unfit biological parents. These are called dependency actions.
Our family law attorneys are experienced in all forms of domestic and international adoption. To understand more about the various forms of adoption, continue reading.
An open adoption is one that allows for communication and exchange of information to be passed between the biological parents and the adoptive parents and child. Formal, open adoption is a legal contract that is a legally enforceable and binding agreement. It usually includes details about visitation rights, information exchange, and other interactions with the adoptive child.
Our adoption attorneys are familiar with all legal aspects of open adoption, including negotiation of an open adoption agreement and possible termination of an open adoption agreement.
Closed adoption is a legal contract that seals all identifying information of the biological parents and the adoptive parents (including the adopted child). Generally, closed domestic adoption allows for transmittal of non-identifying information such as medical history and ethnic background, but does not allow for any contact between the biological parent(s) and child. The identity of the parents is sealed.
Closed adoption cases can be difficult to navigate legally, and the expertise of an experienced adoption attorney will be highly beneficial for you.
This form of domestic adoption usually follows a child's placement in foster care. The foster care system, a system of public care for children without present or fit parents, is an important avenue of adoption in the United States. Adoption through the foster care system, however, is a difficult process, as often the biological parent(s) have not (yet) had their legal rights terminated or relinquished them voluntarily. Navigating these often lengthy legal processes is best undertaken with a family law attorney, well-versed in the foster care adoption process. Adopting through the foster care/dependency process can be especially lengthy and emotionally difficult because the State’s goal is always to reunite children with their biological parents if that is a viable option. This can lead to uncertainty and delay. An attorney’s guidance and advice can be critical here.
A second parent adoption allows an individual to adopt his or her partner's biological or adopted child as their own, without terminating the latter’s parental status. Our adoption attorneys have extensive experience with second parent adoptions, including preparing petitions, arranging required post-placement reports, and representing clients at the final hearing to formalize the adoption.
Many unique issues can accompany second parent adoptions, especially those involving members of the LGBT community. Our adoption attorneys are sensitive to these issues and provide an excellent resource and help during what is sometimes a difficult transition period.
This is perhaps the most common form of adoption in the United States. Despite its commonality, however, there are still a number of steps that must be taken to finalize a step-parent adoption, as well as other issues to consider like a child’s name once the adoption is complete. In this adoption proceeding, the parental rights of one parent are terminated in order to allow a child to be adopted by the other parent’s new spouse or domestic partner.
When all parties are in agreement and the proposed adoptive parent is approved by a social worker and a post placement report completed, the step-parent adoption can proceed smoothly. If, however, a parent wishes to deny his or her consent to terminate parental rights, the process can become considerably more difficult.
Our family law attorneys can help you understand your options in step-parent adoption situations and strive with you to come to a settlement agreeable for all parties and best for the child’s well-being.
International adoption involves the federal placement of a child for adoption outside of that child’s country of birth. This can occur through either public or private agencies. There are a number of legal nuances that come into play during an international adoption.
Adopting across national borders is a form of adoption best chosen to be undertaken with the experience of a seasoned adoption attorney at your side.
Because adoption changes the legal relationship of children and adults, the choice you make in attorney is an important one. You should be confident that the family law team you have chosen is able to handle all of the paperwork, hearings, and background legal (and social) work necessary to ensure your adoption goes as smoothly as possible, whatever form of adoption you have chosen.
We have handled all forms of adoption processes, from the adoption of infants and toddlers, to teen and even adult adoptions. It is our pleasure to watch families come together in this way.
Our adoption services include:
Our goal is to help you understand your rights and responsibilities as an adoptive parent, joining your family journey as a helpful guide and advocate of your rights throughout this emotional and complex journey. Free consultations are available with our family law attorneys, who look forward to providing legal counsel to you and your family. Contact Laurie Ummel, Geoff Gibbs or Ian Johnson or a free consultation.