Washington Adoption Attorneys

Reasons to work with an adoption attorney

Adopting a child is a wonderful step in life and working with an adoption lawyer can give you the peace of mind that the process will go smoothly. You can count on your adoption attorney to help you with three things: understanding, efficiency, and finalization.

First, it’s important that you understand adoption laws. Understanding means you can make the right choices. Your attorney will explain your options and provide you with the information you need to make the best decisions for your growing family.

Second, a strong adoption application that is properly completed is crucial to success. An attorney ensures that mistakes and omissions are avoided and that your adoption is processed as soon as possible.

Third, unexpected events occur. For example, a birth parent could have a change of heart or there may be complications during a pregnancy. A good adoption attorney will be at your side to help you confront any obstacles. 

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How to adopt a child in Washington State?

How to adopt a child in Washington will depend on what you’re looking for. Your needs will likely fall into one of these five common categories of child adoption.

1) Stepparent Adoption
2) Second Parent Adoption
3) International Adoption
4) Agency Adoption
5) Independent Adoption

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption occurs when a parent has a child from a prior relationship and files an adoption proceeding to make their spouse the legal co-parent of the child. The other biological parent will need to be notified and approve the stepparent adoption. If they cannot be found, steps need to taken to notify them of the planned adoption. If the parent challenges the request, a court will decide if the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

In addition, all adoptive parents must complete an adoptive home study. A home study will includes a background check and detailed assessment of the parent. If the report is positive the adoption can be scheduled for a hearing in court where a judge can approve the adoption.

Second Parent Adoption

The steps for a second parent adoption are virtually the same as stepparent adoption, described above. Although, there may not be a second biological parent to notify.

The process creates a legal parental relationship between a non-biological parent and is allowed even if partners aren’t married. A legal parental relationship gives partners the peace of mind that they can make medical decisions for the child if needed and gain custody in the event of the biological parent’s death.

International Adoption

International adoptions occurs when parents adopt a child living in an orphanage in a foreign country. Typically children have to reach a certain age before they are eligible for adoption and adoptive parents do not receive much information about the child or biological parents. One of the benefits of international adoption is the low risk of a child being taken back by a parent during the process, which can be very hard for couples who have begun planning for the child. There is usually no contact with the birth parents, which some parents prefer.

The actual adoption will occur in the Court system of the foreign county. Afterwards, parents work with immigration to bring the child to the US. Once the child is in the United States, many parents choose to re-adopt the child in order to obtain a birth certificate and validate the foreign court’s decree.

Agency Adoption

The first step with agency adoption is information gathering. You’ll need to learn about the adoption process as well as the requirements of an agency, since every organization is unique.

If you feel like you’ve found the right agency, you can begin the homestudy process where you’ll be evaluated to determine that your home is a healthy place for a child. This evaluation includes interviews, reference statements, medical reports, as well as a background check. Once the home study is complete you and your agency can begin searching.

A search will identify children or sibling groups that may be a good fit for your family. Once you’ve matched, you will begin the preplacement phase. At this stage you may meet with the child’s birth family, visit the child several times with the child in foster care or arrange travel if the child is abroad.

If it is a good fit, the child will move in with you. This is known as the post-placement phase. A second report will be written, similar to the orginal home study, to ensure the child is in good hands. Finally, after a few months of living with the child you’ll go to court to finalize the adoption.

Independent Adoption

In an independent adoption, typically a birth family and adoptive family connect with each other without the help of an agency. At the start of the process, adoptive parents actively seek out parents open to adoption. Sometimes they place ads to let birth families know they are looking for a child or use personal networks to meet someone.

Just like the other forms of adoption a homestudy is required. The report is prepared by a private social worker or a child placement agency.

With an independent adoption, often the biggest step is the signing of the Consent to Adoption. The birth parents will need to sign this document and 48 hours must pass after the birth of the child before it can be approved by a judge. If no one has a change of heart after two days, the court will cut the legal ties from the child to the birth parents. The child will begin living with the adoptive parents and the social worker or agency who wrote the homestudy will follow up with the parents and report to the court on how things are going.

Once this final report is submitted to the court the adoptive parents can request the court to formally approve the adoption at a court hearing. Afterwards, a new birth certificate will be issued with the adoptive parents listed as the child’s parents.

 

Can I Adopt An Adult?

Yes, you can adopt an adult. Most adult adoptions are filed to legally recognize a person as an heir, for inheritance purposes. Adult adoption can also be used to ensure access to long term health care or to formalize a close relationship as family.

Adult Adoption Steps

The adopting parent and adult being adopted petition the court. A court hearing is scheduled where a judge reviews your Petition for Adoption, Consent of the Adult Adoptee, Findings of Fact, and Decree of Adoption and finalizes them.

How Much Does It Cost To Adopt A Child?

According to Adoptive Families magazine, the overall cost of adoption will depend on which method you use, but most adopters spent around $35,000. At the high end, international adoption can cost over $70,000. On the other end of the spectrum, adoption through a public agency like a foster care adoption averages less then $3000. 

If your adoption is finalized in 2020 you are eligible for the federal adoption tax credit. The tax credit is valued at $14,300 per child and can be used to write off qualified adoption expenses like attorney fees, travel, and agency fees. 

In regards to legal fees, budget around $1600 for an adoption through the foster care program. When working with an adoption agency, legal fees should be around $4000 and legal fees with an independent adoption should be around $12,000. Keep in mind, agency adoptions are typically more expensive overall than independent adoptions, $39,000 vs. $34,000. 

How Long Does It Take To Adopt A Child?

Every adoption is different, which is why the statistics provided by Adoptive Families magazine are helpline to give you a range of possibilies. 

For adoptive parents seeking a newborn from the United States, 24% were matched in less than 3 months when working with an agency. 34% were matched in less than 3 months when working with an attorney. With both attorneys and agencies, over two thirds of adoptive parents were matched within a year. After the birth of the child 92% of adoptions were legally finalized within 12 months. 

For foster adoptions, over 50% of families were foster certified and placed with a child that was later adopted in under 6 months. Over 75% of foster adoptions were finalized within 2 years of placement. 

Can A Biological Parent Change Their Mind During This Time?

While it is rare, a birth parent can change their mind before the adoption is finalized, which would cancel the process. However, once the adoption is complete a bioligical parent can’t come back for the child. The adoption process removes legal ties to the birth parent.

What Will Disqualify You From Adopting A Child?

At a minimum, you must be 18 years old, be legally competent and be approved through a home study to adopt in Washington. A home study is a key step in any adoption where a social worker or agency evaluates your ability to provide a healthy and stable home for a child. 

If a person has a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against a child, or a crime involving violence they are permanently disqualified. 

Similarly, a person will not pass the home study if they’ve been convicted of a physical assault, sex offense, or a felony not listed above in the past five years. 

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