Practical Guide to Step-Parent Adoption

You are ready to make that big step from being “Step Parent” to Parent, congratulations! 


Adopting your step child can be a big step in any family, and requires planning and forethought. By adopting your step child, you are given the same rights and obligations you would have if the child had been born to you. Here are some things you should know about step parent adoption in Washington:


Biological Parents: You will not be able to adopt if the other parent is still in the picture. The biological parent must either voluntarily relinquish their rights to the child, or have those rights terminated by the court.


What do I need to adopt: To adopt the child you will need to be over the age of 18, be competent, and have the backing of your spouse. If you are trying to seek rights to a child you have helped to raise and are currently divorcing the parent, call us to speak about de facto parentage.


What do I do? If the other biological parent agrees to relinquish their rights, or if you are able to have the other party’s rights terminated, you will file your Petition for Adoption and Petition for Termination of Parent-Child Relationship. In King and Snohomish Counties you will also go through a process to approve the adoption, this generally involves a home visit by a Social Worker.


What if the other party doesn’t consent: Involuntary termination of rights is possible, but may be difficult. DSHS or other licensed agencies may petition to have someone’s rights terminated, as can the prospective adoptive parent. Default is also very common in these scenarios. If the other party is served but fails to respond within 30 days, their rights may be terminated by default depending upon the circumstances of your case.


Washington State does not have mandatory forms for adoption, unlike other areas of family law, so you may wish to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you through the step-parent adoption process.


Because we focus solely on family law, we understand the dynamics of child custody in Washington and can help guide you through. Please contact Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC for a free phone consultation regarding your child custody and adoption issues.


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