I’ve done a few other blog posts about adoptions (see “Adoption through Foster Care,” “Types of Agreed Adoption,” and “The Basics: Agreed Stepparent Adoption (Washington state),” but those processes involve minors, not adults. The process is a bit different and a bit easier for those looking to complete an adult adoption but are intimidated by the process. A big difference to note is that there is no requirement to terminate the legal parents’ rights in an adult adoption.

RCW 26.33 governs adoptions, and in particular RCW 26.33.140 states who may be adopted – any person regardless of age or residence. Any person may adopt who is legally competent and at least 18 years of age. RCW 26.33.140. This means that a stepparent can adopt an adult child, a friend can adopt a friend, etc. In general, an adult adoption will be allowed by the Court unless there is fraud, duress, or lack of competency.

What forms do I use?

For almost all family law matters in Washington state, a person is required to use the state’s mandatory forms to pursue an action – except for adoptions. There are no mandatory state forms for adoptions at this time. The best place to start is by purchasing the adoption packet from King County, Washington. You will either have to purchase the packet in-person or mail-in a request with payment. Clark County, Washington, has a copy of the packet in their law library (at Clark County Superior Court on the first floor) to view but you cannot check it out and copies will cost money. Plan accordingly.

Not all of the documents you need will be in the adoption packet from King County, Washington. A few of the documents will need to be printed from the Washington Courts website. You can download them as either a Word document or PDF and print them for free directly from the website.

You will need the following documents to begin the proceeding:

  1. Petition for Adult Adoption (in the packet from King County)
  2. Consent to Adoption by Adult (in the packet from King County)
  3. Confidential Information Form (from the WA Courts website)

In addition to these documents, you will also need to pay the filing fee (typically $260.00, but call your courthouse to double check on the amount because the fee is updated periodically and will likely be different depending on how you are choosing to pay). Filing these documents and paying the filing fee will start your case and get you a case number.

At the same time you file these pleadings, you can also file to request a hearing date. You will need a Notice of Hearing (from the WA Courts website). When you file the initial documents, you can ask the Court Clerk who the Judge is, and when the next available date is for the hearing in order to complete the Notice of Hearing. Once you complete it, provide it to the Court Clerk.

What happens at the hearing?

Both parties then wait for the hearing date. Both parties need to appear at the hearing. There may be an option to appear via Zoom, but double check with the Judge’s assistant. You need to bring the following completed documents to the hearing, or provide them in advance to the Judge’s assistant if you’ve been given permission to appear via Zoom:

  1. Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (in the packet from King County)
  2. Decree of Adoption (in the packet from King County)

Please double check the location of the hearing, as not all hearings take place in the main courthouse in Clark County, Washington. Make sure you dress appropriately for court (business casual is generally fine) and arrive a few minutes early to get through security. As discussed in more detail below, adoptions are sealed, so the only people in the courtroom will be both parties, the Judge, the Clerk, and any other people you choose to invite. Sometimes people invite family members, friends, religious leaders, or colleagues to the hearing, and the Judge will likely want to be introduced to each person. At the hearing itself, the Judge will swear in both parties and ask questions about the parties’ history and the reasons for the adoption. If you invite people to join you in the hearing, the Judge will likely engage with them as well. Ideally, the Judge will then sign the final orders and the adoption is complete. The hearing itself shouldn’t take very long – usually no longer than 10 minutes. If there are other adoptions ahead of you on the hearing date, you likely won’t meet with the Judge exactly at the time on your Notice of Hearing, so be prepared to wait a few minutes.

What do I do after the hearing?

One very important thing to note is that adoptions in general are sealed to the public at all times, and sealed to even the parties 30 days after the two final orders are signed and entered (Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Decree of Adoption). I recommend you go to the Clerk’s Office the week following the hearing and obtain at least a couple certified copies of the Decree of Adoption. There is a cost to this, so plan accordingly. It is possible to obtain copies of the Decree of Adoption once 30 days have passed, but it will require additional documentation and an official request to the Court. I highly recommend consulting with an attorney if this is necessary.

How Can an Washington Family Law Attorney Help?

So long as the proper legal procedures are followed, there shouldn’t be any issues with the adoption. Since an adult adoption has no contentious third-party involvement (either legal parents signing off on a termination or third-party professionals completing a report and providing a recommendation to the Judge), it is common for people to complete or attempt to complete the adult adoption process on their own. Since the procedures are so important, I recommend you speak with an attorney before moving forward with an adult adoption, even if you want to complete it on your own. I have handled a number of adoptions in my career, and I’d be happy to speak with you about yours.

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Every legal issue is very unique. Accordingly, the information in this blog is intended as general education material and not as legal advice. If you think you may have a legal issue, you should consult an attorney.