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Michele Gentry Hinz

Michele Hinz’s Answers

71 total


  • I have a no contact parenting plan in the state of WA. Do I need fathers consent to get a step parent adoption

    Two years ago after a long modification of a parenting plan trial I received a no contacted parenting plan with my daughters father. My daughter is 8 now and I have sense married, I would like to file a step parent adoption but i'm not sure if I n...

    Michele’s Answer

    I agree with Mr. Hawkins that the birth father's rights need to be terminated, either on the basis of his consent, or involuntarily. There are three basic scenarios:

    1. If you can locate the father and he is willing to consent, that will probably be the simplest and least expensive way to go. Washington law permits would permit you to enter into an enforceable communication agreement with him (perhaps to send him periodic photos and/or updates if you are willing). Since he currently has no contact at all, perhaps he would be willing to consent if the end result would be to have a little more information than he is currently entitled to. Also, you don't mention if he is obligated to pay child support, but if he is, a stepparent adoption would benefit him by relieving him of any future support obligation. (Note: The practice of having a social worker confirm birth parent consents actually varies from county to county. Some counties - like King - require it. At least some others do not. You would need to check with your local court about this and other local procedures.)

    2. If you can locate him but he won't consent, you will need to have him served with documents that notify him of your efforts to terminate his rights. I don't know what paperwork packet you have, but it sounds like the "non-consent" paperwork may contain some or all of the documents you would need for this. If he ignores those documents after he is served, then the court should terminate his rights so the adoption can proceed. If he contests the termination of his rights, then the process gets significantly more complex.

    3. If you cannot locate him, you can explain to the court what efforts you have undertaken to find him, and ask the court for permission to give him notice by publishing notice to him in an appropriate legal newspaper. The notice needs to meet the requirements of the law. Newspapers all have different charges, but it is not unusual for them to charge $200 - $400 to run the notice. Sometimes you can find one that will charge less. I have also run into papers that charge significantly more. If you publish notice and he doesn't respond, the court should also terminate his rights so you can proceed.

    You will need to have a social work report prepared by someone with the appropriate experience dealing with adoptions. The purpose of the report is to tell the court whether or not the proposed stepparent adoption is in your daughter's best interests. I have included a link to the "Adoption Information Exchange" list that contains an abundance of information about adoption resources in the state of Washington. Adoption social workers are listed by region on pages 17 and 18. Adoption attorneys are listed by region on pages 15 and 16. Another excellent resource for locating an experienced, ethical adoption attorney in your area is the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website. I have also included a link to it below.

    Best wishes as you pursue this.

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  • What does my boyfriend have to do to become my daughters step-dad, get his last name and get a birthcirtificate

    my boyfriend and i are not yet married, but my daughter is 2 years old and her biological father has nothing to do with her and his whereabouts are unknown, my boyfriend has taken on the roll of her father and we want to get it legalized that he i...

    Michele’s Answer

    An adoption by your boyfriend would be considered a "second parent adoption" rather than a "stepparent adoption", but the process is very similar, especially with regard to the biological father.

    Your boyfriend would need to file a petition to adopt your daughter. You would need to join in the petition as well.

    As you know, you need to deal with the rights of your daughter's biological father. The best way to do this is, if you knew how to contact him, is to get his consent, on a consent form that meets the requirements of the law. An adoption lawyer can prepare this form for you and, if necessary, meet with the child's father to request that he sign it. You can check the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website (link posted below) to find an experienced adoption attorney in your area. You can also find a list of Washington adoption attorneys on pages 15 and 16 of the "Adoption Information Exchange" resource list found online at the link posted below.

    If it is not possible to locate the father in order to ask him to consent, which sounds like the situation in your case, there are other procedures you may be able to follow to terminate his rights so that the adoption can go forward. The process gets somewhat more complex at this point and it would be best to have an adoption lawyer helping and advising you about the options, considering the specific circumstances of your case.

    Another requirement of the process is to have a report done by a court-appointed adoption social worker, who will tell the court whether or not the proposed adoption will be in the best interests of your daughter. Washington's adoption law does not require that you and your boyfriend be married for a certain length of time, or that you be married at all, in order for him to adopt your daughter. (The policies of different counties, or even of different individual judges, however, may vary on what they will and will not approve. An attorney who practices in your area should be able to give you an idea about local policies.) The social worker who does the report will consider all of the circumstances of your family's situation, including the length and stability of your relationship, in deciding whether the proposed adoption would be in your daughter's best interests.

    If the social worker's report is favorable, then after all of the necessary documents are filed, a date for a court hearing is scheduled. If the court approves, the judge signs a Decree of Adoption that makes your boyfriend the legal father of your daughter. As a part of the process, the biological father's obligation to support your daughter will terminate, and your boyfriend's obligation to do so will begin. The biological father's past due support obligation will not be affected by the adoption unless you enter into an agreement with him to release him from the obligation to pay past due support.

    After the Decree of Adoption is entered, application can be made to have your daughter's birth certificate re-issued to show your boyfriend as her father.

    Best wishes.

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  • How do i get reimbursed for the expenses of raising a child for 5 months and then not being able to adopt

    my partner and i were given a child to raise and adopt. he lived with us for 5 months and then his birth mother decided she wanted him back. we want to know how we go after the father who dropped him off at our house and expected us to raise him...

    Michele’s Answer

    I'm so sorry this happened to you.

    Check with a tax professional. Some costs of a failed adoption attempt qualify for the Adoption
    Tax Credit. I don't know if any of the costs of the child's care pending the proposed adoption would be considered qualified adoption expenses, but it would be worth checking out.

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  • How do I adopt my 3 stepchildren without consent in wa?

    My Husband won full custody of his 3 children over a year ago. The mother (drug addict) has no visitation whatsoever. We put in the parenting plan that the mother could petition to seek visitation once she has completed a drug treatment program an...

    Michele’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    As you know, you need to deal with the rights of your stepchildren’s biological mother. Although it sounds like you are pretty confident she will not consent, it may still be worthwhile to have an adoption attorney contact her about the subject. Sometimes the discussion with the attorney goes better than it would with the father or stepmother, perhaps because of relationship issues between the parties.

    If it is not possible to contact the biological mother, or to get her consent, there are other procedures you may be able to follow to terminate her rights so that your step-parent adoption can go forward. The process gets somewhat more complex at this point and it would be best to have an adoption attorney advising you about the options, considering the specific circumstances of your case. If you do end up filing a petition to terminate the mother’s parental rights so that the adoption can move forward without her consent, you will need to prove to the court by “clear, cogent and convincing evidence” that she has “failed to perform parental duties under circumstances showing a substantial lack of regard for…her parental obligations.” You will also need to convince the court that the adoption is in the best interests of the children, and that the mother is withholding her consent contrary to the best interests of the children.

    Part of the process is for you to have a report done by an adoption social worker, who will tell the court whether it appears that the step-parent adoption will be in the best interests of the children. A resource list can be found at the "Adoption Information Exchange" link below. Adoption social workers throughout the state who can do these reports are listed on pages 17 and 18 of that list.

    I would suggest that you start by trying to get contact information for your son's mother and trying to have an adoption attorney make contact with her to discuss the possibility of adoption. After that, your attorney will be able to advise you about how involved the legal process is likely to be, and you can decide whether or not you want to take the next step.

    A good place to start looking for an adoption attorney is on pages 15 and 16 of the “Adoption Information Exchange”list, or at the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website below.

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  • I want to Adopt my Step Daughter. How do i do it?

    Ok so i know i cant adopt for a few years. Yes im 18 but me and her mother are not married just yet. So ill be a year or 2 still but im trying to get an idea on what i need to do. Ok so the guy who got her pregnant left as soon as he found out she...

    Michele’s Answer

    I commend you for your responsibility and your concern for your fiancee’s child.

    Here is a brief overview of how Washington law applies to a situation like yours:

    It may be surprising, but even though the biological father is not listed on the child’s birth certificate, the law does require that you deal with his rights. Typically the simplest and least expensive way to do this is to get his consent, on a consent form that meets the requirements of the law. An adoption lawyer can prepare this form for you and, if necessary, meet with the child's father to request that he sign it. You can check the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website (link posted below) to find an experienced adoption attorney in your area. You can also find a list of Washington adoption attorneys on pages 12 and 13 of the "Adoption Information Exchange" resource list found online at the link posted below.

    If it is not possible to get the father's consent, there are other procedures you may be able to follow to terminate his rights so that the adoption can go forward. The process gets somewhat more complex at this point and it would be best to have an adoption lawyer helping and advising you about the options, considering the specific circumstances of your case.

    Another requirement of the process is to have a report done by a court-appointed adoption social worker, who will tell the court whether or not the proposed adoption will be in the best interests of the child.

    If the social worker's report is favorable, then after all of the necessary documents are filed, a date for a court hearing is scheduled. If the court approves, the judge signs a Decree of Adoption that makes you the legal father of the child. The Decree of Adoption can also change the child’s name. As a part of the process, the biological father's obligation to support the child will terminate, and your obligation to do so will begin. The biological father's past due support obligation will not be affected by the adoption unless the child’s mother enters into an agreement with him on that topic – and she can’t affect his obligation to pay any support money owed to the state

    After the Decree of Adoption is entered, application can be made to have the child’s birth certificate re-issued in her new name, showing you as her father.

    Although it is probably most common to go through this process as the child’s stepfather, it is legally possible to adopt your fiance’s child even before you are married. This is referred to as a “second parent adoption” rather than a “stepparent adoption.” In every case, whether the child’s mother is married to the petitioner or not, the social worker and the court consider a variety of factors to determine if the relationship is sufficiently stable so that the adoption is in the best interests of the child.

    Some employers (including the US military) offer an employee benefit that helps with the cost of adoption, so you may want to look into that as you investigate the process.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

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  • Adult Step Parent Adoption - Thurston County, WA

    My husband is trying to adopt my daughter who is 19 years of age. I have the packet from the Thurston County Superior Court for Step Parent Adoption (9-1) and was told by the clerk that is would work in this case but it needs modified. The problem...

    Michele’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    I find that Pierce County is very helpful. They have forms in their law library at the courthouse. You don't need to file in your home county, so you might want to consider filing in Pierce.

    Essentially though, in any county, your husband files a Petition for Adoption (along with a $250 filing fee - payable to the Clerk of Court). It is important for you sign the Petition as well, joining in it, so that the adoption does not inadvertently terminate your parent-child relationship with your daughter. You don't need a homestudy (post-placement report) or consent from the birth father. On the same day you file the Petition, you can schedule the final hearing by filing a "Note for Commissioner's Calendar". (That is what it is called in Pierce County, at least - the title of that document in Thurston county may be different. The clerk of the Superior Court should be able to tell you what the document is, and what days and times they schedule adoption final hearings.) In Pierce County all adoption final hearings are on Friday mornings at Juvenile Court. In order to schedule a hearing there for any given Friday, you need to file your Note for Commissioner's Calendar by the preceding Thursday - six court days before. The scheduling requirements vary from county to county, though.

    You need to prepare two documents for the final hearing - The "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" and the "Decree of Adoption". After the judge signs these at the final hearing, you take them to the clerk's office, get certified copies of the Decree (I usually get two) and submit an application for a new birth certificate. That involves two more forms, which the clerk should have - an "Application for Adoption Registration" and an "Adoption Data Card". (If you pick up these forms from the clerk when you file the case you can have them all filled out and ready to go so you can bring them with you to your final hearing.) You need to submit the fee for the new birth certificate along with the application. If your daughter was born in Washington, the fee is $35 for the first new birth certificate and $20 for each additional. If she was born in another state you will need to check with their vital records office regarding fees and whether or not they have additional forms they want you to complete.

    Make a set of copies of all documents because once you file an original, you can't get it back out of the sealed file without a court order. When you file your originals, you can use the "filed" stamp on the counter at the clerk's office to stamp your copies, so you have a record of when they were filed. The clerk should also have a stamp with the judge's name that you can use to stamp the judge's name on the signature line of your copies.

    I hope that is helpful. Best wishes and congratulations.

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  • What are the steps to adult adoption?

    My husband would like to adopt my adult daughter, her bio-father is deceased. Can we do this on our own, what are the steps we need to take in order to get this done?

    Michele’s Answer

    Adult adoption in Washington is a pretty straightforward process. A social worker’s report is not required and, even in the case where the birth father is living, it is not necessary to notify or get consent from him. It IS necessary for the mother to join with your petition to avoid having the adoption inadvertently terminate her parental rights as well as the birth father’s. Adoption will also affect your daughter's right to inherit from her birth father's family, so she may want to look into that further before proceeding.

    In some counties you can get a forms packet from the Superior Court Clerk, although I don't see that there are any listed on the Kitsap County Superior Court Clerk's webpage. Several other counties have forms that you would need to adapt, but they would at least provide you with a starting place. The Thurston County Superior Court Clerk's office has a stepparent adoption forms packet. A link to information about that packet appears below. King County Adoption Service also has some forms packets available, and I believe one of them is for stepparent adoption. Their telephone number is 206-296-9350. Pierce County is a user-friendly place to file adoption proceedings, and there are some adoption forms available in the Pierce County Law Library. There are also some adoption forms in the Washington Family Law Deskbook, which you can probably find in your local law library.

    If you will be handling the process yourself, check on local procedures with the clerk of the county where you plan to file.

    If you are looking for an attorney to help you handle the process, a list of Washington Adoption Attorneys can be found on pages 15 and 16 of the Adoption Information Exchange listing. A link to that listing appears below.

    Another good resource for experienced adoption attorneys is the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website. I have included a link to their site as well.

    Best wishes.

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  • What is the cost of a stepparent adoption in Washington state?

    My daughter's biological father lives in Texas and we have been stationed in Washington. He has agreed to terminate his rights but we would like to know how much it will cost roughly.

    Michele’s Answer

    If your husband is the service member, it should ultimately not cost you anything. Active duty members of the military have a $2,000 reimbursement benefit for adoption expenses, which now includes stepparent adoptions. If the birth father is cooperative, the total of all of your expenses, including attorney's fees, the cost of a social work report, court costs, new birth certificates and miscellaneous other costs should be less than $2,000. You can submit your request for reimbursement as soon as the adoption is final, and my clients who have done so tell me that they have received their checks about 3 weeks from the time their completed application was submitted.

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  • My boyfriend and I were at the tail end of a year long state adoption of his granddaughter when they found an oversight.

    We started the whole thing over a year ago, we did all they asked of us ,passed WA background checks the whole nine yards.We were" Approved" and were ready to finalize at the end of June. Now they realized they forgot to fingerprint us in the beg...

    Michele’s Answer

    Mr. Clement is correct - fingerprints are required for a homestudy to be considered complete. Fortunately, fingerprint results have been coming back within 4 to 6 weeks recently - a big improvement from the 3 to 4 month turnaround time families were experiencing earlier this year. Just get your prints done as soon as possible so the process can move forward to completion.

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  • I have two adult step children I would like to formally adopt. I can't seem to find the petition form(s) neccessary.

    My step children's birth certificates have no father listed and their last names were legally changed to mine when they were children. I would like to formally adopt them, now that we can afford the legal process. The county said to get the forms...

    Michele’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Adult adoption in Washington is a pretty straightforward process. A social worker’s report is not required and it is not necessary to notify or get consent from the birth father. It IS necessary for the mother to join with your petition to avoid having the adoption inadvertently terminate her parental rights as well as the birth father’s.

    In some counties you can get a forms packet from the Superior Court Clerk, although I don't see that there are any listed on the Kitsap County Superior Court Clerk's webpage. Several other counties have forms that you would need to adapt, but they would at least provide you with a starting place. The Thurston County Superior Court Clerk's office has a stepparent adoption forms packet. A link to information about that packet appears below. King County Adoption Service also has some forms packets available, and I believe one of them is for stepparent adoption. Their telephone number is 206-296-9350. There are adoption forms in the Pierce County Law Library. There are also some adoption forms in the Washington Family Law Deskbook, which you can probably find in a local law library.

    If you will be handling the process yourself, check with your county Superior Court Clerk regarding local procedures.

    If you are looking for an attorney to help you handle the process, a list of Washington Adoption Attorneys can be found on pages 15 and 16 of the Adoption Information Exchange listing. A link to that listing appears below.

    Another good resource for experienced adoption attorneys is the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys website. I have included a link to their site as well.

    Best wishes.

    See question