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Summer in Seattle, photo by Jan Engel © 2005

Adoption Articles








Summer in Seattle
Photo by Jan Engel © 2005

Lirhus & Keckemet LLP


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Washington State Independent Adoption of Infants

What is Independent Adoption?

In an independent adoption the birth parents and adoptive parents mutually select each other without agency involvement. Washington law allows independent adoptions. Parents who select each other independently need legal and social services. They need a professional team: an attorney and adoption counselor.

What Services Will I Need?

The mutual goal of your professional team is to help both birth and adoptive parents plan a customized, legally sound and sensitive adoption. You will need competent legal advice from an attorney regarding the areas of state and federal laws relative to adoption and familiar with local court policies. You will need advice, counseling and other assistance from a social worker practicing in the field of adoptions. The attorney and social worker will prepare legal documents and court reports, attend court hearings and provide counseling for both birth and adoptive parents. You will need a preplacement report prepared by a qualified individual, such as an adoption social worker, or agency. This will assist in preparing for the baby's birth and provide support to ease adjustment after the birth. Adoption options ranging from traditional "closed" to contemporary "open" should be explained. Mediation services should be available between families to facilitate mutual agreement on options meeting everyone's needs. Careful coordination should be done with medical personnel during the birthmother's hospital stay, as well as with extended family members. This ensures a smooth transition of the baby from one family to the other, respecting each family's time to say good-bye and hello.
Counseling for both birth parents and adoptive parents should be made available.

Steps in the Independent Adoption Process

    PREPARATION - Read books, attend workshops and courses, talk with others involved with adoptive family building and utilize counseling services for infertility resolution and adoption preparation.

    PREPLACEMENT REPORT - Getting a preplacement report is the first step in "getting underway." To find out how to get a preplacement report, contact the people at the end of this article. State law requires that a preplacement report be on file prior to placement of a child in the home. State law also requires that you have a completed preplacement report with a favorable recommedndation, before you publish an advertisement for a child or birthmother.

    FINDING EACH OTHER - network through professionals in the medical, legal, religious and social fields, and through friends of relatives, relatives of friends, extended family, and the media.

    LEGAL DOCUMENTS - All court action in the adoption process is initiated by petitions and motions which if the court approves, are followed by orders. The attorney prepares and presents the legal documents. The adoption counselor interviews the parties involved and makes recommendations to the court.

    PLACEMENT - When the baby joins the adoptive family, supportive services are provided to the birth parents to help them adjust to their loss. Services are also provided to the adoptive parents to aid them in adjusting to parenthood.

    POST-PLACEMENT REPORT - After an appropriate period of adjustment, the adoptive counselor completes a post-placement visit with the adoptive parent and baby and then prepares the final report mandated by law. The attorney prepares the final decree of adoption, sets a court date for finalization, attends the final hearing with the adoptive parents and files the decree of adoption.

    BIRTH CERTIFICATE - The attorney prepares the application for a new birth certificate showing the adoptive parents as parents of the child.

Open or Closed

Adoption plans may have varying degrees of openness, or be closed. Written agreements about post-adoption contacts or communication may be approved by the court.


Independent adoptions are confidential in Washington unless the birth ad adoptive parents mutually agree to exchange identifying information. The court files are sealed and are not opened to any person except upon order of the court for good cause.

How Long Before the Adoption is Final?

In King County, the adoption final hearing can usually be scheduled from two to four months after the child is placed in your home. This time may vary in other counties because of local policies. There is no minimum statutory period between placement and final hearing.

What Can Complicate an Adoption?

Each adoption is unique. Most complications can be resolved. Particular care must be taken when:

    1. The birthfather is unknown, unavailable or questions consenting to the adoption;

    2. Mental incompetency, duress or fraud are suspected;

    3. Parent(s) is a minor;

    4. The infant is arriving from another state or country;

    5. The birth parent is in the U.S. Military;

    6. The birth parent is a Native American or Native Alaskan;

    7. There has been a request or offer of money other than for medical and legal expenses.

Various laws provide special protection in these situations. All legal requirements must be met.

How Much Does Adoption Cost?

Costs depend on, and vary with, the circumstances of each adoption. It is an excellent idea to consult with an attorney at the outset regarding legal fees, medical and court costs. The cost of the preplacement report varies depending on the agency or individual preparing the report.

Where Can I Get Answers to General Questions Regarding Adoption?

This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice in specific situations. It is not a comprehensive statement on the law relating to independent adoptions. However, we hope points mentioned within will be of interest to you. Additional information and answers to your questions are available from the people named at the end of this article.

This article is the result of collaboration between an attorney and social worker, both experienced in being advocates and consultants for birth and adoptive parents in independent adoptions in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, and other Washington counties.

If you would like additional information, please feel free to contact the authors of this article.

Attorney at Law

Lirhus & Keckemet LLP
1200 5th Avenue, Suite 1550
Seattle, WA 98101-1882
(206) 728-5858

Adoption Social Worker
(800) 331-8620

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The information in this web site is all general information. The information is applicable only to the state of Washington, unless otherwise stated. This general information is not legal advice for your particular circumstances. If you have legal questions you should consult your lawyer.

Lirhus & Keckemet LLP
1200 5th Avenue, Suite 1550
Seattle, Washington 98101
Copyright 2010 by Lirhus & Keckemet LLP.