- Mackenzie Sorich
Second Parent, Step-Parent & Domestic Adoptions
Washington State laws give step-parents special rights to seek adoption of their step-children. The same law applies for married same-sex couples who wish to have the non-biological or non-gestational parent adopt their child in order to ensure changes at the Federal law level do not deprive them of their right to parent. Step-parents may seek to terminate the rights of a biological parent when it is in the best interest of the child and there are supporting facts. Other relatives do not have the right to terminate a biological parent’s right to the parent-child relationship as clarified by recent case law.
Parental rights are taken very seriously in Washington. In fact, they are constitutionally protected rights. But as we all now know, the current U.S. Supreme Court no longer honors precedent and things can change that were once considered established law. For this reason, many same-sex couples take the extra step of adoption.
With any type of adoption, biological parents can willingly give up these rights through a written consent of relinquishment and petition by another to adopt as long as it is approved by the court. Even after relinquishment has been signed, the court will not enter the relinquishment until two days have passed. It gives the parent additional time to be sure of their decision.
If either parent doesn’t consent, then the issue goes to court and is set for trial.
Only step-parents or State foster care agencies can seek to terminate parental rights.
The law directs that a court will not take away someone’s parental rights unless there is evidence of abuse, neglect, abandonment or other circumstances proving that the parent is incapable of adequately performing parenting functions.
A New Guardianship Law
Washington State implemented a new guardianship law that may keep children out of foster care. Adoption does not work for all non-parent caregivers. Some circumstances may warrant the pursuit of guardianship instead of adoption.
Making the decision to adopt or pursue guardianship can be complex and takes experience and patience to navigate.
The Benefit of a Family Law Attorney
It is paramount to remember that non-step-parent adoptions require the consent of both parents unless the State has terminated parental rights through the foster care system. If you are a grandparent/aunt/uncle/friend and wish to adopt, the child’s biological parents must consent unless the child is legally free.
If you are a step-parent then you have special rights that allow you to seek adoption over the biological parent’s objection. For example, if you are a step-father and you and the mother believe it is in the child’s best interest for the child to be adopted by you, then your attorney can negotiate this with the biological father or seek approval by the court through a trial.
View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning
At View Ridge Family Law & Estate Planning, our attorneys proudly offer legal counseling regarding adoptions. If you are considering an adoption or guardianship, schedule a consultation with our Client Services Director or a Strategy Session with one of our attorneys. We look forward to learning the specifics of your situation and outlining how we can help you.