Stepparent Adoptions

Susan O'Toole Edmonds Lawyer

Stepparent adoptions allow a stepparent to adopt his or her partner’s child, and to become the child’s parent in the eyes of the law. Stepparent adoptions are one of the most joyful types of family law cases, as the family is becoming legally one, and the child is gaining a parent who loves the child enough to want to become his or her legal parent. In contrast to dissolutions or child custody cases or restraining orders, courts often allow family and friends to attend stepparent adoptions and celebrate the occasions.

Stepparent Adoption Statute

The Washington statute governing adoptions is RCW Chapter 26.33. While this statute lays out the process for all adoptions, stepparent adoptions are generally handled somewhat differently because of the situation, depending on what jurisdiction the adoption takes place in. Under the statute, the Petition for the Adoption is filed either where the petitioner resides or where the adoptee resides. RCW 26.33.030. The Petition is filed by the prospective parent, and if the petitioner is married (as in a stepparent adoption), the petitioner’s spouse joins the Petition.

Contents of Petition for Stepparent Adoption

Under RCW 26.33.150, the contents of a Petition for Adoption include the following: The name and address of the Petitioner, the name, gender, and place/date of birth of the adoptee, a statement that the child is or is not an Indian child covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the name and address of the person having custody of the child (which in a stepparent adoption is the spouse of the petitioner). The petition is signed under penalty of perjury by the petitioner, and the joinder of the spouse is also part of the petition. Under RCW 26.33.220, a preplacement report is not required in a stepparent adoption, but a post-placement report is still required unless the adoptee is 18 years or older.

Post-placement Report and Hearing

A post-placement report is required for a stepparent adoption, and when the Petition is filed the court will appoint someone to do the post-placement report. The report looks at whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child, and examines factors including the physical and mental conditions of the child, the home environment, family life, health, facilities and resources of the petitioner, and other facts or circumstances relating to the propriety and advisability of the adoption. RCW 26.33.200. If relevant, the report shall also include information on the child’s special cultural heritage, including membership in an Indian Tribe. Id.

After the Court has received the post-placement report, the Court will schedule a hearing on the Petition for Adoption. If the court determines the post-placement report has been done, and all other requirements have been met, and the adoption is in the best interests of the adoptee, the court will enter a decree of adoption. RCW 26.33.240. With stepparent adoptions this is almost always the case, and often the court allows family and friends to be in the courtroom, either personally or virtually to witness and celebrate the stepparent adoption. After the decree is signed, the information can be sent to the Vital Statistics office, so a new birth certificate with the new parent’s name on it can be issued.

Considerations

Parents who are seeking to have their spouses adopt their child or children have to jump through some hoops, but with the help of a good attorney, stepparent adoptions can be a joyful experience for the parents and child. For more information or to schedule a consultation email us at info@beresfordlaw.com, or give us a call at 425-776-4100.

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