If you are contemplating an agreed adoption, congratulations! Going through an adoption can be a wonderful experience, but there are a number of legal steps that need to be taken first. Please understand that although they might not be as litigious as other family law matters, they do affect a parent’s (or parents’) fundamental right to parent so if they aren’t done as close to perfect as possible, you could be opening the door for it to be reversed later down the line. Adoption can happen in many different forms, which I will discuss in more detail below.
1. Agreed Stepparent
- This is the most common type of adoption that I see in my office. This typically involves an involved and loving stepparent wanting to officially and legally step up into the parent role. In most instances, the biological parent hasn’t been involved for years, and is willing to relinquish their parental rights. The two biggest and most time-consuming hurdles are getting a biological parent to sign the consent, and obtaining a Post-Placement Report. If you want to check out another blog on the topic and different forms that might be needed, check out “Agreed Stepparent Adoption Basics” https://navigatelawgroup.com/the-basics-agreed-stepparent-adoption-washington-state/.
- This is another fairly common type of adoption that I have encountered. This involves a family, usually working through an agency, expanding their family and adopting a child from outside of the United States. The relinquishment of the biological parents’ rights and the adoption take place in the child’s home country first so the necessary paperwork can be then completed in the United States. After completion of a Post-Placement Report, the adoption takes place in the adopting parents’ home county, and the child then receives a birth certificate from that state (in this case Washington).
3. Foster Care
This is another common type of adoption that I have dealt with. This typically involves a child whose biological parents have either had their parental rights terminated by the state, or they have voluntarily relinquished their rights. The state typically completes all of the paperwork and reports needed to file and complete the adoption, which is extremely helpful for the attorney. The process up to the actual legal adoption tends to take a bit longer than other types of adoption, but the state ensures the correct steps are taken to facilitate a smooth adoption.
4. Domestic Agency
This might be the type of adoption that people have the most general knowledge about, but it is one of the more expensive options, and the agency typically has their own attorney. This typically involves adoptive parents contracting with a domestic agency to pair them with a newborn child. The adoptive parents are generally involved throughout the pregnancy. It is my understanding that the agency will complete the majority of the tasks as in a foster care adoption, but the parents in an agency adoption are voluntarily relinquishing their rights from the beginning.
This might be the least common type of adoption. This typically involves the adoptive parents having no formal relationship with the child, and the biological parents agree to relinquish their parental rights to the adoptive parents. This could happen when friends or family members step in to care for a child, and then decide to adopt instead of pursing custody in a Non-Parental Custody matter. An adoption like this would function similarly to an agreed stepparent adoption, but both parents would be relinquishing their parental rights instead of only one. If you are seeking an adoption like this, you should also consider a Non-Parental Custody action as an alternative.
Agreed Adoption Tips
One thing to note for all adoptions is that a new birth certificate is issued with the adopting parent’s (or parents’) names. The child’s name can also be changed at that time, so long as the new name is included in the court pleadings. Obtaining a copy of the new birth certificate from the state can take anywhere from 10 days to 6 months depending on how backlogged they are.
Another thing to note is that this post is specifically about agreed adoptions. Within almost all adoptions, the biological parent’s (or parents’) parental rights need to be terminated before the adoption can move forward. If a biological parent refuses to relinquish their parental rights voluntarily, then you may be looking at a contested termination. The standard for a contested termination is very high, so I recommend you speak at length with an attorney before making the decision to move forward with a contested termination.
If you are wanting to take a look at some example adoption forms to prepare, it might be a little more difficult than you think. Washington State has mandatory forms for almost all family law matters you might find yourself in except for a select few – including adoptions. The best option if you are going through an adoption of any kind is the purchase the adoption packet from King County, Washington. Clark County Superior Courthouse has a copy of the packet in their law library but copies will cost money.
Again, going through an agreed adoption can be a fantastic and life-changing experience. So long as the proper legal procedures are followed, there shouldn’t be any issues with the adoption and you won’t have to worry about the adoption being reversed later down the line. Since the procedures are so important and the forms aren’t as easy to fill out as others you might encounter, I highly recommend you speak with an attorney before moving forward with an agreed adoption. 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.