Grandparent / Extended Family Adoption
When a child's parents die, disappear or otherwise become unable to care for the child, it's often family or extended family that step in to take care of the child — grandparents, aunts, uncles, and sometimes older brothers or sisters. However, despite the family bonds the child and his or her new caretaker may share, the law does not grant the caregiver the same rights and protections as a legal parent. By adopting the child, you can provide the child with a permanent place in your home and protect the child from sudden changes in his or her life.
Washington Grandparent Adoption Lawyer
If you are taking care of your grandchild, niece, nephew, younger sibling or other family member, and you wish to protect the child from his or her parent suddenly deciding that the child should no longer live with you, adoption may be the best course of action. By adopting the child, you ensure the safety, health and well-being of the child. Joyce Schwensen is an experienced Washington grandparent adoption lawyer who can assist you. Call the Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen today at (206) 367-1065 to set up a consultation.
The Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen is based in Seattle, and can represent clients throughout Washington State.
Why Adopt Grandchildren
Grandparents and other family members are often the people that take care of a child when that child's parents cannot. If the parent dies, it can often be automatic that the family member takes custody of the child. Other times, the parent asks the grandparents or other family members to temporarily take care of the child while the parent is ill, in prison or going through difficult times. The time that was intended to be temporary may become permanent, or have no foreseeable end.
Taking care of a child does not give you the same kind of legal authority to make certain decisions that a parent would have — decisions that often must be made for the welfare of the child, like educational decisions, and even whether the child will continue to live with you. You will have the right to make these decisions once you legally adopt the child.
You may have been appointed guardian of your grandchild, niece, nephew or other young family member, and see no need to go through with the process of legal adoption. However, guardianship does not terminate the parental rights of the child's biological parents. If one of the parents is alive, he or she may petition for visitation rights, and even to terminate the guardianship and take the child back. Even if the child's parents are deceased, adoption is important — as this makes sure your ability to raise the child cannot be challenged by other relatives.
Starting the Adoption Process for Grandparents
For an adoption to proceed, the rights of the parents must be terminated, unless they are both deceased.
Under Washington law, the consent of one of the parents is required in order to allow a private case to terminate the parental rights of the other parent. Ideally, at least one of the child’s parents understands that the adoption would be in the child's best interests, and give his or her consent.
If the other parent cannot be found, the law lays out specific procedures for trying to locate them and give them notice that their parental rights are being terminated. If they fail to respond, the court may proceed by ordering the termination of parental rights, to pave the way for adoption.
If one of the parents objects to the adoption, then court may proceed with the termination if it finds, by clear, cogent and convincing evidence, that the termination of the parents' rights is in the child's best interest and that the parent failed to perform parental duties under circumstances that showed substantial disregarded his or her obligations to the child.
Although it can be very difficult emotionally to challenge the parental rights of your own child or your grandchild’s other parent, it is important to keep in mind that adoption may be the best thing for your grandchild or young relative. Your Washington adoption lawyer can help you understand your options and guide you through the legal process.
Law Offices of Joyce S. Schwensen | Washington Extended Family Adoption Attorney
If you're taking care of a grandchild, niece, nephew, younger brother or sister or other young relative, and seek to make that relationship permanent, you should consider legally adopting the child. Washington grandparent adoption lawyer Joyce Schwensen can assist you with this process. Call today at (206) 367-1065 to schedule a consultation.