Postadoption Contact Agreements Between Birth and Adoptive Families - Washington

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What may be included in postadoption contact agreements?

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.33.295; 26.33.420; 26.33.430

Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to prohibit the parties to a proceeding under this chapter from entering into agreements regarding communication with or contact between adopted children, adoptive parents, siblings of adopted children, and a birth parent or parents.

An agreement under this section need not disclose the identity of the parties to be legally enforceable.

The legislature intends to promote a greater focus, in permanency planning and adoption proceedings, on the interests of siblings separated by adoptive placements and to encourage the inclusion in adoption agreements of provisions to support ongoing postadoption contact between siblings.

To the extent feasible, and when in the best interests of the adopted child and siblings of the adopted child, contact between the siblings should be frequent and of a similar nature as that which existed prior to the adoption.

Who may be a party to a postadoption contact agreement?

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.33.295; 26.33.430

An agreement may be entered into between the adoptive parents and the birth parents.

The court, in reviewing and approving an agreement under § 26.33.295 for the adoption of a child from foster care, shall encourage the adoptive parents, birth parents, foster parents, kinship caregivers, and the Department of Social and Health Services or other supervising agency to seriously consider the long-term benefits to the adopted child and siblings of the adopted child of providing for and facilitating continuing postadoption contact between siblings.

What is the role of the court in postadoption contact agreements?

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.33.295; 26.33.430

The court shall not enter a proposed order unless the terms of such order have been approved in writing by the prospective adoptive parents, any birth parent whose parental rights have not previously been terminated, and, if the child is in the custody of the department or a licensed child-placing agency, a representative of the department or child-placing agency. If the child is represented by an attorney or guardian ad litem in a proceeding under this chapter or in any other child-custody proceeding, the terms of the proposed order also must be approved in writing by the child's representative. An agreement under this section need not disclose the identity of the parties to be legally enforceable.

The court shall not enter a proposed order unless the court finds that the communication or contact between the adopted child, the adoptive parents, and a birth parent or parents as agreed upon and as set forth in the proposed order would be in the adopted child's best interests.

If the adopted child or known siblings of the adopted child are represented by an attorney or guardian ad litem in a proceeding under this chapter or in any other child custody proceeding, the court shall inquire of each attorney and guardian ad litem regarding the potential benefits of continuing contact between the siblings and the potential detriments of severing contact.

Are agreements legally enforceable?

Citation: Rev. Code § 26.33.295

Agreements regarding communication with or contact between adopted children, adoptive parents, and a birth parent or parents shall not be legally enforceable unless the terms of the agreement are set forth in a written court order entered in accordance with the provisions of this section.

An agreement may be enforced by a civil action, and the prevailing party in that action may be awarded, as part of the costs of the action, a reasonable amount to be fixed by the court as attorney fees.

An agreement under this section need not disclose the identity of the parties to be legally enforceable.

Failure to comply with the terms of an agreed-upon order regarding communication or contact that has been entered by the court pursuant to this section shall not be grounds for setting aside an adoption decree or revocation of a written consent to an adoption after that consent has been approved by the court as provided in this chapter.

How may an agreement be terminated or modified?

Citation: Rev. Code § 26.33.295

The court shall not modify an agreed-upon order under this section unless it finds that the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the adopted child, and that:

  • The modification is agreed to by the adoptive parent and the birth parent or parents.
  • Exceptional circumstances have arisen since the agreed-upon order was entered that justify modification of the order.