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District of Columbia Adoption Laws

There are many concerns and interests involved in an adoption. Couples looking to adopt must decide what type of adoption they'd like to pursue and be screened by state agencies in advance. Courts determine whether an adoption is in the best interests of the child, while consent, home residency, and other requirements must be met.

A married couple might adopt a child, one spouse might adopt the other spouse's child from before the marriage, or relatives may legally adopt a child. Adults can also adopt other adults. With all the different scenarios that can arise, balancing the concerns and interests involved is governed by state adoption laws and determined by the courts.

Adoption Laws in D.C.

Washington, D.C. permits any person to adopt any other person. For married persons, a spouse must join in the petition for adoption, unless the spouse is a proposed adoptee's natural parent. Adoption is initiated by filing a petition with the district's superior court system. Vital information about the prospective adopting parent(s) must be included in the petition, including name and contact information, relationship to the prospective adoptee, race, religion, and any desired name change. A prospective adoptee must also live with the adopting person for a period of six months. Only then can the adoption become final.

Consent is normally required to adopt anyone under the age of 18. This includes the consent of the prospective adoptee if they're 14 or older. Consent from the child's parents, legal guardian, or a licensed child-placing agency is required as well. This consent requirement can be waived by a court if a party whose consent is required can't be located or has abandoned a child.

Finally, an adoption decree has the effect of creating the same relationship between the adopting parents and the adopted child as enjoyed by natural parents and a natural child. For all legal purposes, they are viewed as an actual child of the adopting parents.

District of Columbia Adoption Laws at a Glance

While reading the statute is important, it can also be helpful to read an overview of the law that isn't written in legal jargon. In the following table, you'll find an overview of adoption laws in D.C. as well as links to relevant statutes.

Statute(s) District of Columbia Code, Division II, Title 16, Chapter 3, Section 16-301, et seq. (Adoption)
Who May Be Adopted?

Any person

When is Child's Consent Needed?

Age 14 and older

Who May Adopt?

Any person can adopt. Spouses must both join on a petition unless one is the natural parent and consents to the other spouse's adoption.

State Agency Responsible for Adoptions

District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency

Statute of Limitations to Challenge Adoption

1 year

Related Statute(s)

District of Columbia Code, Division II, Title 16, Chapter 4, Section 16-401, et seq. (Collaborative Reproduction)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

District of Columbia Adoption Laws: Related Resources

For additional information and resources, please click on the links listed below.

Get Legal Help with Your Questions About District of Columbia Adoption Laws

While making the decision is adopt is exciting, it also requires a lot of work including compliance with a variety of laws. For specific questions regarding a particular case, or general guidance during the adoption process, it's best to speak with an experienced adoption lawyer near you.

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