Blended families are becoming more common throughout California. When two families come together or a new parent joins a family, the new parent may decide to adopt the children of the other parent to form a more cohesive family unit. Stepparent adoption is the legal process of a stepparent adopting their spouse’s minor child. Becoming a legal parent of the adopted child, the stepparent can now also make legal and medical decisions for the child.
The Basic Requirements of a California Stepparent Adoption
Stepparent adoptions require the adopting person to be either the legal spouse or domestic partner of the child’s parent. The adopting parent has to fill out the proper forms and have a social worker write a report telling the judge about the child to be adopted and the potential adopting parents. After the report has been submitted to the court, the adoption hearing is set. The hearings are generally held in private. At the hearing, the adopting parent has to assure the court, in writing, that he will treat the child as his lawful child. If the court is satisfied that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, it will enter an order of adoption. Note that for the adoption of a Native American child, the process is different and you would have to satisfy more requirements.
California Stepparent Adoption Requires Notice to the Other Natural Parent
The natural parent whose spouse is seeking to adopt should make every effort to give notice of the intended adoption to the other natural parent, and to seek their consent. There are many ways in which one may try to contact the other birth parent, whatever means used, it is important to keep track of all the attempts. This may be important if you have to ask the court to grant an adoption without the other parent’s consent.
Can Adoption Be Granted Without a Natural Parent’s Consent?
Since a stepparent adoption terminates the legal rights of the natural parent or parents, the court has to receive signed consent to the adoption from the natural parent. Additionally, if the child to be adopted is over 12 years old, the court must have his/her consent to the adoption. This is a great way for the child to feel involved in the process of their adoption.
While it is possible in some cases for the court to end a natural parent’s rights without consent in a California stepparent adoption, it is rarely done without special circumstances. Some of these special circumstances include:
1. If the child is considered judicially emancipated, either in California or in another jurisdiction; or
2. If the natural parent whose consent would otherwise be needed has:
- given up their right to custody of the child; or
- abandoned the child; or
- given the child up for adoption.
If the natural parent whose rights are to be terminated has died, the other parent would have to give evidence, such as a death certificate, to the court.
In most cases, the California stepparent adoption process is straightforward and you may choose to go ahead with the initial application without an attorney. If you would like help with filling out the forms for a stepparent adoption, please contact A People’s Choice for reasonably priced non-attorney help.