So You Want To Adopt: What Now?

Family Law Attorneys Helping Families with Adoption in the Tacoma, WA Area

The road to parenthood is full of challenges and surprises that will test your patience and your pocketbook. While every new parent faces significant highs and lows along the way, things can be particularly challenging for couples navigating the complex world of adoption.

While adoption is an option that many potential parents consider, the process can seem so daunting and overwhelming that it is easy to become discouraged and lose motivation to continue.

With a bit of knowledge, however, it is possible to learn the ins and outs of the adoption process and give yourself a leg up, and confidence, as you negotiate with adoption agencies and the legal processes that are required.

Starting the Adoption Process for Bonney Lake Residents

The first step in the adoption process is locating a child to adopt. Adoptions can happen within the state of Washington, in other cities throughout the United States, or abroad. This article will focus on the domestic adoption process in the United States.

Parents typically work with adoption agencies to locate mothers, or families, who would like to put their child up for adoption. Although potential parents and birth mothers can be put in contact before the birth occurs, most states place limitations on the finalizing of an adoption until after the child is born.

This is done to make certain that the birth parents will still want to consent to the adoption after the birth occurs. For example, in Washington, consent cannot be provided to initiate an adoption until at least 48 hours after the birth.  In some states, this can be as short as 24 hours and in other state’s longer.

Additionally, most states provide that even after initial consent is given and the adoption legal process starts, birth parents may still revoke consent for a period of time after the birth. In Washington, birth parents have up to a year to revoke their consent. This adds an additional complexity to an already very emotional process.

Are You Fit to Adopt?

After the birth parents formally and legally consent to adoption, the next step in the process is for the state to determine whether the adoptive parents are actually fit to adopt. No one wants to have a child taken away from birth parents to be given to others who may not actually be able to take care of the child, or who could do harm.

In order to determine fitness for adoption, most states require an investigation into the adoptive parents, also known as a home study. The home study will be conducted by a state official and will result in a report and recommendation as to whether the court should approve the adoption.

Home studies consider a wide variety of factors, including:

  • The financial stability and ability of the adoptive parents
  • The physical and mental health of the parents, including any past mental health issues
  • The stability and strength of the marriage, if a couple is adopting
  • Whether the adoptive parents have demanding or unusual career obligations
  • Whether there are already other children in the family
  • Any criminal history of either parent.

As these factors make clear, a home study is not merely a visit to the home of the potential parents. It is an in-depth investigation that involves review of documents, interviews, and site visits to the home. Conversely, it can also serve as a learning opportunity for the parents to find out more about special issues that may arise with adoptive children.

At the end of the home-study, the evaluator will make a recommendation regarding adoption, which courts give great weight. If a couple gets a unfavorable review, they can contest the findings, or request a new home-study, from the state. This is essentially an “appeal” of the adoption review.

Finalizing the Adoption in Court

Once the initial review is over, the adoptive parents must petition to formalize the adoption in court and give them legal custody over the child. The adoptive parents will need to file a pleading, or petition, with the court that explains who the original birth parents are, how they can be contacted, and why they decided to give the child up for adoption.

The petition must also identify the child, identify the adoptive parents, and explain why it is in the best interest of the child for the adoptive parents to obtain legal custody over the child.

After the petition is filed, the court will need to seek the consent of the birth parents one more time. This is typically done by the birth parents filing a written document indicating their consent. Depending on how long the adoption process has taken, the birth parents may still have the opportunity at this time to revoke their consent to the adoption.

If all moves forward as planned, the court will then schedule an adoption hearing to hear from the adoptive parents, review the recommendation of the state agency that conducted the home study and consider any arguments from other interested parties.

In rare occasions, other individuals such as grandparents may attempt to contest the adoption at a hearing. When this happens, the court will consider the various parties’ arguments regarding the best interests of the child. After considering all the options, the judge will issue a final order on whether the adoption petition is approved. This is the final legal authorization for adoption.

Washington Family Law Attorneys Standing By You At All Stages of Adoption

There can be no disputing that adoption is an expensive process, and adding an attorney to the equation only increases that bill. An experienced adoption attorney, however, can significantly lessen the time spent on the adoption process, the stress it creates, and the confusion over how to handle court proceedings. This guidance and stress relief is often exactly what adoptive parents need, whether adopting through an agency or adopting a grandchild or other family member.

At Bolan Law Group., our family law lawyers can walk you step by step through the adoption process, and provide advice and input at every juncture along the way. To find out more about how the adoption process works, or how a Tacoma family lawyer can make the process easier, contact us online or at (253) 470-2356.

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