In Washington and throughout the United States, there are many blended families. A typical household might include a set of parents who have each had a previous marriage and have had children with their former spouse. You might also be among those who have been widowed at a young age and have become a blended family after deciding to marry again. In either case, you may be wondering whether state law allows you to adopt your stepchild.

Every state operates under unique guidelines for family law matters. It is critical for you to clearly understand state laws before taking any sort of legal action to update your family status. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you avoid complications and stress down the line.

Both biological parents must agree to the adoption

If you want to adopt your stepchild in Washington, you must have the approval of the child’s biological parents. There are exceptions to this rule, such as if one of the parents abandoned the child and has been out of contact with him or her for a certain length of time. If your stepchild’s other biological parent is abusive, incarcerated or deemed unfit by the court, these issues may also be grounds for waiving the approval rule.

The age of your stepchild is another important adoption issue

If your stepson or stepdaughter has reached his or her fourteenth birthday or beyond, the child must give consent for adoption. In such cases, it’s imperative that your stepchild understands the legal implications of an adoption, particularly that it means his or her other biological parent will have no legal rights as a parent once the adoption is finalized.

What if the child’s birth parent objects?

If your spouse and stepchild agree to have you adopt but the child’s other birth parent refuses to grant consent, you may have a legal battle on your hands. If you take the case to court, you would have to show just cause to convince the court to waive the consent rules on grounds such as those described in a previous section of this post.

To prove that a parent is unfit for custody, the court will expect you to provide evidence that demonstrates that he or she is a detriment to the child’s well-being or has placed him or her at risk in some way.

Adopting a stepchild can be a rewarding and joyful experience

Wanting to adopt your stepchild is a noble and worthwhile goal. While there may be some obstacles along the way, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to become an adoptive parent. The more you know ahead of time about the family justice system, especially as it pertains to stepchild adoption in Washington, the better able you might be to resolve any complications that arise in the process.