Many step-parents have incredible relationships with their step-children and desire to strengthen the family bonds by officially making them their own. If you are considering adopting your step-child and you live in Washington, you will need to hire an attorney who specializes in family law to help you maneuver the legal hurdles that can sometimes get in the way of the adoption process. Here's what you need to know about the procedure.

You Will Need To Seek Parental Consent

Both of the child's biological parents will have to give their permission for the process to go forward. For example, if your new wife has children and you wish to adopt them, not only will she need to be in support of your desire, but the children's biological father will need to be on board as well.

The biological father would be giving up his legal rights to the children. This means he would no longer have any right to contact with them. He would also no longer have any right to make decisions on how the children are raised. The children's name would also be changed to the step-father's last name. Additionally, the biological parent would no longer be required to provide any financial support and would be relieved of any child support orders in place. All the rights and responsibilities of being a parent would be transferred to the adoptive step-parent. Additionally, any child over the age of 14 would also need to give their consent for the adoption to take place.

There Will Be A Home Inspection And Other Checks

Once all of the consent forms have been filed and the necessary paperwork filled out and filed with the court, a home visit from the Department of Children Services will be scheduled. They will inspect the home and ensure the living environment is safe and make sure that nothing seems out of place in the family dynamics. The court may also require counseling, a background check, or a psychological examination to make sure the prospective adoptive parent is fit to be a parent. Once these steps are complete, they can proceed with the hearing.

What To Do If The Biological Parent Doesn't Give Permission

Unless the biological parent is found unfit to parent, such as in cases of extreme neglect or abuse, there is nothing that can be done, and the adoption cannot occur. The court will not force a parent to give up their rights to their child(ren). They will also not force a child over the age of 14 to sign the consent form and will give heavy consideration to the child's wishes.

In the case of an absentee parent who cannot be found, every effort must be made to notify them before the court will terminate their parental rights. Process servers may attempt to serve the notice at their last known address or employer or via relatives. Notice of the legal proceeding must also be placed in the newspaper. If the biological parent is still not able to be located, then the court hearing may proceed. 

For more information, contact local professionals like Campbell, Dille, Barnett & Smith, P.L.L.C.