A Step-by-Step Guide to Stepparent Adoptions in California

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

When a parent marries another person, that person does not automatically have legal rights when it comes to that parent’s children. Instead, stepparents need to go through the formal process of adopting the child if he or she wants to create the legal relationship between them and the child.

Stepparent Adoptions Compared to Traditional Adoptions

Stepparent adoptions are similar to other types of adoptions in that the legal rights that the process confers are the same. For example, once the child is adopted, he or she is now the legal heir to the stepparent. The stepchild has all of the rights and obligations that he or she would have if the stepparent was their biological mother or father.

It is different from traditional adoption, however, because one of the parents retains his or her legal rights over the child while the other parent’s rights are terminated.

The Stepparent Adoption Process

Stepparent adoptions are actually one of the most common types of adoptions in California. Stepparents can adopt both adults and minors.

Terminating Parental Rights

If the child is still a minor, you should seek the consent from the other biological parent whose rights will be terminated.

It can be difficult to get consent from the other parent because that will mean that all of their parental rights are extinguished, including the right to visit the child or make decisions regarding the child’s health and wellbeing. Nonetheless, many parents are willing to allow their rights to terminate because they realize that having a two-parent household is usually in the child’s best interests.

If the birth parent refuses to give consent, then you must have the Court terminate their parental rights before you can proceed. Parental rights can be terminated for good cause, such as unfitness to parent, failure to support the child for a period longer than one year, or abandonment for a period longer than one year.

Filing a Petition with the Court

To initiate a stepparent adoption, you must file a petition with the court. The paperwork necessary for a stepparent adoption will generally include:

  • Formal Adoption Request
  • Adoption Agreement
  • Adoption Order

If the other parent does not consent then you must also file a Petition to Terminate the Parental Rights at the same time at the same time as the adoption.

The Adoption Request will set out basic information about the child and the child’s legal parents or guardians. It will also indicate whether you have gotten consent from the other natural parent.

The Adoption Agreement states that the new parents agree that the child will be adopted and treated as if he or she is their natural-born child. They also acknowledge that the child will have the same rights and duties as if he or she was a natural-born child.

While the adoption process is relatively straightforward in California, it can be difficult because of the emotions and legal nuances involved in the process. A legal professional can ensure that you have all of the paperwork necessary and that you have the proper consent from the child’s natural parent. Contact the Carroll Law Office for more information on how we can help in this process.

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