What You Need to Know About Adopting Your Stepchild in California

parent washing dishes with child for Adopt a Stepchild in Ca case

The bond between a step-parent and step-child can become even stronger than that of the noncustodial parent. If the noncustodial parent is absent or has terminated their parental rights, adoption is an option that may be right for you and your family.

It may feel daunting to consider adopting your stepchild in Ca, but with some thought, preparation, and the right legal resources, your adoption can go smoothly. In this article, we will cover the process of step-parent adoption.

Requirements to Adopt

There are many things to consider when you want to adopt a stepchild in Ca. Before, the process takes as little as 180 days or may take longer depending on the case’s complexities. 

Before deciding to adopt a stepchild in Ca, there are some requirements you need to make sure you meet. The criteria are:

  • Biological and Adopting Parent Relationship – The biological and adoptive parent is required to be legally married or in a domestic partnership to file for the adoption. There is the option of a “second-parent adoption,” however, that is a more complicated process.
  • Adopting Parent Age – A parent adopting a stepchild must be 18 years old or older and at least ten years older than the child. Sometimes, the 10-year requirement can be waived depending on the circumstances.
  • Biological Parent/Spouse Consent – Both the adopting parent, their spouse, and the biological parent must agree to the adoption.
  • Consent – The child’s other biological parent must give consent to the adoption. If there is no consent, the adoption may still proceed but will not be considered an uncontested adoption. The adoption procedure will differ if consent is not able to be obtained. Some of the reasons for proceeding without consent are willful failure, abandonment, and alleged parental rights termination.
  • Consent of the Child – The adoptive child must consent if they are 12 years old or older. 

Next, we will take a look at the steps to adoption by a step-parent.

How to Adopt a Stepchild in Ca

Step 1. Filing for Adoption

To begin the adoption process, an adoption request form must be filed. This form must be completed with information about the step-parent, their relationship with the child, and information relating to the parents or other guardians that may affect the courts’ determination. 

Step 2. Social Services Investigation

After filing for adoption, the court will contact the Social Services office in your county to complete an investigation. They gather relevant identifying documents, such as a birth certificate. Next, they interview both the biological parent and the adoptive parent. In most cases, they will interview the child as well. 

This investigation is often brief and straightforward, following the State’s guidelines for adoption in the child’s best interest.

Step 3. Termination of Parental Rights

The other parent of the child must be living to terminate their parental rights. This frees the other parent of obligations like child support and any court-ordered visitation rights. If the non-custodial parent agrees to terminate rights, a form is completed and submitted to the courts.

The non-custodial parent may not be willing to participate or unable to be found for their signature. Unwillingness to consent does not mean the parent will fight the adoption, but rather that they are not interested in participating. 

When a non-custodial parent cannot be found, you must take all reasonable efforts to locate them. If the non-custodial parent cannot be found, a petition is filed with the court, and a judge determines if their rights are to be terminated. 

Step 4. Court Hearing for Adopting your Stepchild in Ca

The last step of the adoption process is a court hearing. A judge legally formalizes the adoption. This is generally a happy event. Friends and family attend to support the adoptive parent and may even take a photo with the judge.

Same-Sex Couples

The legalization of same-sex marriage came with the presumption of parentage by non-biological parents of children born during a marriage. When one parent in the union has a biological relationship to the child, but the other doesn’t, a step-parent or second-parent adoption can secure legal rights for the non-biological parent.

If a child is born from a previous marriage, same-sex couples can still file for adoption. For adopting your stepchild in Ca, they must meet the requirements and follow the same process outlined above. 

Finding the Right Attorney

It is possible to file for adoption without an attorney, but it may be more difficult and costly. Finding an attorney who specializes in adoptions provides you with counsel and guidance throughout the adoption process. 

At Azemika & Azemika, we are devoted to family law. We are experts at cases involving dissolution of domestic partnerships, divorce, visitation, child custody, paternity, child and spousal support, adoptions, and abandonment. 

We have successfully handled some of the most challenging family law cases in Kern County. We aim to provide all of our clients with very knowledgeable, aggressive, and affordable representation.  Contact us today for a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys and let us fight for your family.