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  1. #1

    Default Terminating My Parental Rights Before an Adoption is Final

    My question involves adoption law for the State of: Washington

    I am the noncustodial parent (NCP) of a child living in Washington state. I live in a different state. This question might be a little odd compared to others on this forum.

    My biological child was the product of an extramarital affair that happened a number of years ago. Upon learning that I was the biological parent of this child, I began paying monthly child support in the amount agreed upon between me and the custodial parent (not court ordered). As hard as it was, I also told my loving spouse about the child and the affair. While I was able to maintain my marriage (after a lot of counseling and building of trust), it was clear that it would not be in the child's best interest to be in my life (the relationship between me and the custodial parent was not good -- many things happened that made the situation highly volatile). Either way, I've paid child support for well over 7 years (all documented by the way), while never seeing my biological child once (the custodial parent did not keep the child from me, this was our decision). Eventually the custodial parent moved to Washington state (which is many thousands of miles away from me) with the child and began dating another person. They have been married now for 1 year after dating for almost 3. Recently I contacted the custodial parent about the idea of their new spouse adopting the child. I communicated to the custodial parent that I'd be willing to terminate my parental rights to make this a possibility since it appears this is the biggest hurdle in all of the adoption literature I read. The custodial parent responded by saying the new spouse EVENTUALLY wants to adopt, but a lawyer told them they would need to be married for 3 years before the WA court agrees to the adoption. The step parent has a fantastic relationship with the child (so says social media that I'm not blocked from).

    I absolutely understand my financial responsibility to my biological child, I am not trying to skirt that, but it appears the custodial parent is taking me for a ride. I also support two other children with my current spouse. From my perspective, the custodial parent and our child are now benefiting from two incomes (mine and the new spouse). While my family gets what's left. It's probably clear at this point that the new spouse and me are the respective household breadwinners. It's clear an adoption will eventually occur, but another two years means thousands of lost dollars for a child that someone else is raising and loving as their own. Is there anything that I can do to speed up the process? Can I personally fill out termination of rights paper work and submit it to them? I know that many will say "are you sure about losing your rights, you made the mistake, now deal with it", but so much of this is water under the bridge. I am a logical person and I can never see myself treating this child the same as my others after everything their custodial parent said and did following our affair and the revelation of paternity. Nor do I want to put my saint of a spouse through that hardship. I can wax poetic about this situation for days, but I've tried to present the basic facts above.

    If you're interested in my feelings beyond the facts: Those in my position are often painted as the "enemy" and/or deadbeat, when in fact I've maintained employment and my financial responsibility ever since our support agreement began. The custodial parent, on the other hand, has jumped from job to job, attended college, gone overseas a couple of times, and left the child with relatives for large swatches of times. Every once in a while I'd receive a picture of our child via text or email, but mostly the only time I heard from the custodial parent was if the child support check was late by a day or two. Or if there was something else they needed money for. Did I mention this person moved to one of the most expensive cities in the United States? So additional funds are always a need. Many times I've paid a couple hundred extra dollars a month to help out with various child care costs, bills, etc. To top this all off, when I sent my initial message about ending support and going down the termination of rights and adoption route, the custodial parent threatened to "expose" me for things I did many years ago that they believed my spouse didn't know about. Because our situation is so convoluted, I'm not sure if that's technically blackmail/extortion or not, but either way it's pretty childish.

    Any words of wisdom or personal experiences would greatly be appreciated. From everything I've read and seen, those in my position have very little leverage, unfortunately.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Short answer: No.
    Don't make me quote Monty Python at you.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Thanks for the response BooRennie. Obviously state laws vary, but is it realistic legal advice that a state wants you married for 3 years before they'll approve a step parent adoption?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Quote Quoting noncustparent2015
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    Thanks for the response BooRennie. Obviously state laws vary, but is it realistic legal advice that a state wants you married for 3 years before they'll approve a step parent adoption?
    Yes, that is realistic. Its on the longer side of realistic, but its realistic. Judges want to see a stable, long term marriage before they approve a stepparent adoption.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Quote Quoting llworking
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    Yes, that is realistic. Its on the longer side of realistic, but its realistic. Judges want to see a stable, long term marriage before they approve a stepparent adoption.
    I'm not sure if states put a number on years of marriage. They do want to see stability and quality in the relationship, and that isn't always reflected in the longevity of it. However, if you jump the gun and try the adoption too soon, it might fail, and you will have to wait and pay for all the fees again after more time as passed. There isn't any reason for them to hurry up and do this.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    That makes perfect sense. I know they evaluate these on a case-by-case basis, but it seems to me a 4 year relationship (one of those as a married couple) signifies a strong bond. Washington state publications do not make any mention of a time frame this long. What does a lawyer have to gain by suggesting a longer time frame before pursuing adoption, besides gaining their client more child support from the non-custodial parent?

    - - - Updated - - -

    As is probably the case for most situations like this, my proximity to the issues and strong feelings about its parties, make it difficult for me to think objectively. Thanks for the response. As a non custodial parent, are there typically fees I have to pay when terminating parental rights?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Quote Quoting noncustparent2015
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    That makes perfect sense. I know they evaluate these on a case-by-case basis, but it seems to me a 4 year relationship (one of those as a married couple) signifies a strong bond. Washington state publications do not make any mention of a time frame this long. What does a lawyer have to gain by suggesting a longer time frame before pursuing adoption, besides gaining their client more child support from the non-custodial parent?

    - - - Updated - - -

    As is probably the case for most situations like this, my proximity to the issues and strong feelings about its parties, make it difficult for me to think objectively. Thanks for the response. As a non custodial parent, are there typically fees I have to pay when terminating parental rights?
    The mom and step dad would be responsible for the fees in the adoption case. Only reason I can think the lawyer would recommend that is because they know the courts and they have seen cases with less time fail. Why would the lawyer care you are paying child support, doesn't benefit him any to drag it out. Why are you paying child support if it isn't ordered?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    (not court ordered)
    OK, let's back up a little.

    Did you sign an acknowledgement of paternity? Were you found to be the father via a court ordered DNA test? What verification exists of your biological and legal paternity? In what manner was the amount of support calculated?

    I am glad that you stepped up to do the right thing, but you do need to make sure that you protect yourself AND the child. If the court was not involved in setting support, you need to get the court involved NOW.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Long story longer: The custodial parent was married to another spouse when the question of paternity came up (the child was the result of an affair between me and the custodial parent). It was proved via a paternity test that the other spouse was not the biological parent. To be honest, after some harassing from the custodial parent and their ex-spouse, I agreed to a paternity test from a reputable paternity testing center. Paternity was established at that point. It was not court ordered, though the courts did use the other spouse's test result when they dissolved marriage (without support) with the custodial parent. Because of the messy situation, the custodial parent and I created a binding written child support contract (outside the courts). This is not unheard of. We used our state's child support calculator to arrive at the decided upon child support figure and other costs that would or would not be covered. The contract was notarized.

    For all intents and purposes, it was an extremely ugly debacle that pushed my existing family to the brink. Add to that several defamatory accusations the custodial parent made to save face that ultimately made it impossible for the custodial parent or child to be in my presence.

    There were no court orders. No acknowledgments of paternity. My name is not on the birth certificate. At this point, legally, I suppose I am not the biological parent of the child, but isn't that all just one court ordered subpoena away from happening if the custodial parent is so inclined? Because there are piles of documentation (including a paternity test and support contract) showing that I've assumed responsibility for the child.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Terminating My Parental Rights

    Couple of things.

    You do not have a binding child support contract. You have a private agreement, but the court will not enforce it unless it actually becomes a court order.

    Next is marriage. The state doesn't have a specific timeline - they can be married 4 months, 4 years or 4 decades. All the state wants to see is stability and if Mom and her husband have only been married a year but have raised the child together for 6 years, that will generally be satisfactory.

    Now for paternity. Because paternity is NOT established, Mom (and you, actually) can petition the court to do just that at any point up until the child reaches at least the age of majority.

    That the child is also being supported by the stepparent is completely irrelevant.

    When all's said and done, you cannot initiate the TPR yourself, nor can you initiate the stepparent adoption yourself. If Mom wants her husband to raise the child while you're paying child support, that's legal and possible.

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    Quote Quoting wess1881
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    The mom and step dad would be responsible for the fees in the adoption case. Only reason I can think the lawyer would recommend that is because they know the courts and they have seen cases with less time fail. Why would the lawyer care you are paying child support, doesn't benefit him any to drag it out. Why are you paying child support if it isn't ordered?
    That's not always the case. The court can order the cost to be shared at least somewhat.

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