When you're in a relationship with someone with children, those children become like your own. However, while you may not differentiate your stepchildren from your biological children, the law does. Unless you have gone through the process of legally adopting your stepchild, you may have no right to physical or legal custody in the event that something tragic happens to your spouse.
When adopting a stepchild, obtaining the consent of the biological parent who does not have custody of the child is an important step. However, if consent cannot be obtained, you may still have legal options.
Washington Stepparent Adoption Lawyer
Joyce Schwensen, Seattle step-parent adoption lawyer, has assisted many parents take the vital step of legally adopting their stepchildren. Adopting your stepchildren can ensure that the child you love and take care of is also your child under the law. Joyce Schwensen can help you with this critical decision, and guide you through the complex process. Call the Law Office of Joyce S. Schwensen today at (206) 367-1065 to schedule a consultation.
Joyce Schwensen helps stepparents adopt throughout the state of Washington, including in Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver and Tacoma.
Washington Stepparent Adoption Information Center
- Reasons for Stepparent Adoption in Washington
- Consent of Biological Parent in Stepparent Adoption
- Required Steps for Stepparent Adoption If Consent is Not Given or Cannot Be Given
Stepparents usually play an important and critical role in their stepchildren's lives. Frequently, children spend most or all of their time living with one set of parents, and that set of parents may include one parent who is not a biological parent. The non-biological parent may have as much of a role as a biological parent - nurturing the child, caring for the child, being responsible for the child's necessities.
However, legally the non-biological parent does not have any rights over the child prior to adoption. If, for instance, the child's biological parent were to be in an accident where the parent is hospitalized or killed, the non-biological parent would not automatically have custody, and would not have the opportunity to make critical legal decisions for the child.
Those decisions over legal and physical custody could include where the child lives. In the event of any such tragedy occurring, the stress would be compounded immensely.
This is the case even if the stepparent and the custodial parent are married, and even if the noncustodial biological parent is deceased. The stepparent must go through the adoption process to become the child's legal parent.
For a person to adopt his or her stepchild in Washington, the parental rights of the child's noncustodial biological parent must be terminated. The noncustodial biological parent is, in the case of stepparent adoptions, the parent other than the parent the stepparent is married to.
Ideally, the noncustodial biological parent is in agreement with the proposal, and gives consent. If he or she gives consent, the parties can go to the court with an adoption plan. If the court approves, the adoption can move forward. This is the simplest and easiest way for the adoption to proceed. However, there are many complicated legal steps to be followed, even in the simplest of circumstances. Your best path forward is to have an experienced attorney assisting you.
There are many reasons the consent of the noncustodial biological parent may be difficult or impossible to obtain. It may be impossible to find the parent. When a noncustodial biological parent is missing and you are seeking to terminate his or her parental rights, you must still try to notify him in order to legally terminate his or her parental rights. If he or she cannot be found despite diligent search, or is found but does not respond to the legal process, the termination of parental rights procedure may continue.
If the noncustodial parent objects and does not wish for the adoption to proceed, the matter may be complicated. However, it's far from hopeless. The court may proceed with terminating a parent's rights without his or her consent if it finds that the step parent has proven by clear, cogent and convincing evidence, that the parent failed to perform his or her parental duties under circumstances that showed a substantial lack of regard for his or her obligations to the child, and that termination of the parental rights would be in the child's best interest.
This is a difficult standard to meet, but one that can be met in certain circumstances. Your Washington adoption lawyer can help you understand the requirements and decide whether to bring the case to the court to prove to the court that the biological parent's rights should be terminated in favor of you becoming the adoptive parent of your stepchild.
Law Office of Joyce S. Schwensen | Washington Stepchild Adoption Attorney
To obtain the legal right to make important physical and legal custody decisions for your stepchild, you must adopt the child. Joyce Schwensen is a Washington adoption lawyer who helps stepparents take this critical step. Call the Law Office of Joyce S. Schwensen at (206) 367-1065 today to set up a consultation. The sooner you begin the process, the sooner your stepchild can be secure in his or her present family.