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How much time is determined to be reasonable before filing to terminate a father's parental rights after having no contact ?

Port Orchard, WA |

My son's boo dad was imprisoned in 2006 and released Dec . 2012 . My son hasn't seen him since 2005 . There were a total of 4 letters sent over that time period to my son from boo dad . Since his release there has been no contact at all . I have no way to contact him or his family or even know his whereabouts . I was advised years ago that once boo dad was released from prison and could utilize his rights , there was a time period I had to wait lit I could file to terminate his parental rights under the child abandonment clause . My son wants to be adopted by my husband of 6 + yrs . What is the time I have to wait to file as long as there is no contact ?

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Attorney answers 3


You really need to speak with an adoption attorney. Lack of contact in itself isn't grounds for termination of parental rights--it can be grounds for a parenting plan that severely restricts contact in the future, but to terminate a parent's rights, you typically have to prove that they are unfit. When someone else is willing to step into the father's role, and you petition for termination in conjunction with an adoption petition, the language is slightly different, but still a high burden if the father doesn't want to relinquish his rights voluntarily:
"Except in the case of an Indian child and his or her parent, the parent-child relationship of a parent may be terminated upon a showing by clear, cogent, and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child to terminate the relationship and that the parent has failed to perform parental duties under circumstances showing a substantial lack of regard for his or her parental obligations and is withholding consent to adoption contrary to the best interest of the child." RCW 26.33.120(1)
One of the most crucial things is giving him proper notice, so you need to start tracking him down--consider hiring a private investigator. But again, talking to an attorney is a necessary first step.

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To terminate the father's right to have contact with the child, ususally a year of no contact will be sufficient. I'm not sure why you would bother to go to court about it if the dad is not bothering you or your child.

You can't terminate the father's legal relatioship with his child unless you have another person standing ready to adopt your son. As a matter of public policy, the government/law does not want to let the father off the hook for child support so that there is only one parent responsible for the child.


Stepparent adoption is more streamlined and less expensive than other adoptions. However, it's rare that an adoption court will allow an adoption and terminate the dad's rights over his objection. If his whereabouts are unknown, you probably can get him "served" with the adoption papers by publication. Adoption attornies know how to do this. Once he is served, you can eventually get a judgment by default, and the adoption is effective. See my AVVO Legal Guides on adoption, default and service of legal papers for more information about the legal issues raised by your inquiry. Click on my photo; on my AVVO home page scroll down to "Contributions"; click "Legal Guides." Scroll down the list of my 29 Legal Guides and select the topics relevant to your question. You may also want to schedule a free ½ hour consultation with me by calling my office at 253-815-8440.

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