Well, unfortunately, you are completely wrong. In all circumstances before an adoption is approved the biological Father must consent. So in order to adopt this child, paternity must first be established. Your girlfriend needs to hire an attorney to get this process moving. Right now, you are not a party to this case and have no legal standing. You have no stepdaughter in the eyes of the law.This will remain the case unless you actually get married. Please have your girlfriend consult with local counsel as to the procedures to establish paternity.
The information is for general information purposes only. Nothing stated above should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation.
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.