Common Obstacles When Stepparents and Second Parents Adopt
Although being a stepparent is rewarding, many stepparents struggle when they encounter situations in which the legal rights associated with parenthood don’t apply to the relationship they have with their stepchildren. That is why stepparent adoption is such a major milestone for blended families. There are two common types of adoption in Washington, stepparent adoption and second-parent adoption.
Stepparent adoption is a legal process by which the spouse of one of the biological parents legally adopts the child and the other biological parent cedes their parental rights. Second parent adoption is the adoption of a child by a second parent in the home who is not married to the legal parent.
In Washington, both same-sex couples and single LGBTQ+ persons can become adoptive parents. However, both stepchild and second-parent adoptions can present several obstacles that must be overcome to formalize the stepparent/stepchild relationship.
Obstacle #1: Obtaining Consent from the Other Birth Parent
The most significant issue that stepparents generally encounter when they want to adopt a stepchild is obtaining consent from the other birth parent. The consent of the other birth parent is required for all stepparent adoptions unless the birth parent's parental rights have been terminated. Birth parents who still have a relationship with the child are usually reluctant to give their consent to adoption because it means they give up all of their parental responsibilities. In some cases, it might be impossible to locate the other birth parent to ask for their consent.
Obstacle #2: Terminating the Other Birth Parent's Parental Rights
Stepparents who aren’t able to obtain consent from the other birth parent can get around this requirement if they can prove the other parent abandoned the child, is unfit, or is not the biological father. Abandonment can be established if the other birth parent has continuously failed to provide child support or has abandoned the child for a year or longer. If you have evidence that the other birth parent is abusive, neglectful, or incarcerated, then you can request a fitness hearing with the court to determine if they are an unfit parent. If the other birth parent objecting to consent is male and you can prove that they do not meet the state's definition of a "presumed father,” then their consent for stepparent adoption won't be required.
If you need reliable counsel to understand your options for adopting a stepchild, McKinley Irvin can help. Call 206-397-0399 today or contact us online for a consultation.