There are many scenarios in which a stepparent might adopt a stepchild or stepchildren. It can be a straightforward process, but only if the non-custodial parent consents to the adoption. If the biological father does not consent, you still may be able to terminate their parental rights if you meet certain criteria. Although this may be true, it does complicate the process a bit more.

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Get help to Adopt a Stepchild!

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A People’s Choice can help you better your chances of having your request to adopt a stepchild approved by the courts. First, the paperwork is complex. Secondly, the court is very careful about approving this type of request because it essentially eliminates the parental rights of a biological parent. In this regard, it is important that all requirements are met and you complete the paperwork properly.

When a Stepparent Can Adopt a Stepchild

There are many situations in which a stepparent wants to adopt a stepchild. In some cases, the process is easy. In others, it can be more difficult. For example, if the non-custodial parent does not want the stepparent to adopt a stepchild, you may have to file a formal Petition with the court to terminate their parental rights. Here are three ways a stepparent can adopt a stepchild:

  1. You are married to the biological parent at the time of the child’s birth. If you are still married, you can use a less formal adoption process. In addition to the standard adoption documents, you can file a Stepparent Confirmation (ADOPT-205with the court. This process does not require a social worker to do an investigation or report. In addition, you will NOT need to go to court for a court hearing. Remember, this process only works if the adopting parent was married to or in a domestic partnership with the parent who gave birth at the time the child was born, and they are still married.
  2. A stepparent files for a formal adoption with non-custodial consent. If you want to adopt a stepchild, file an Adoption Request (ADOPT-200) to tell the judge about your relationship with the child. Children 12 years or older must consent to the adoption when a stepparent adopts a stepchild. The non-custodial parent can consent to relinquish their parental rights by signing a formal consent form. Once the court completes the investigation, the court can approve the adoption.
  3. Stepparent files for a formal adoption without non-custodial consent. If you want to adopt a stepchild but do not have the consent of the non-custodial parent, you will have to take additional steps to terminate the biological parent’s rights. If the non-custodial parent abandoned the child and has not seen them or paid child support in over a year, you may ask the court to terminate their parental rights. Courts may also consider waiving consent if the non-custodial parent has a history of abuse.

Some states require the marriage of the adopting stepparent and the custodial biological parent to be at least a year before the adoption. However, this is not a requirement in California. The Department of Social Services ideally wants marriages of at least a year when approving the stepparent adoption of a stepchild.

How the Stepparent Adoption Process Works

When you are ready to file the papers, you will pay a fee to file the case. At the present time, these fees are usually relatively low. In most counties the fee is $20 per child. The courts may waive the fee is the stepparent cannot afford it.

After you pay the fees, you must have a non-party personally serve the Adoption Request on the non-custodial parent.  Adoption extinguishes the rights of the biological parent. Those rights include visitation and the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing. For this reason, that parent must give consent.

Once you file the Adoption Request for a stepparent to adopt a stepchild, the court will schedule an investigation. During the investigation, the investigator will interview you, the biological parent, the child or children, and sometimes the non-custodial parent. The adopting stepparent will also need a criminal background check. The adopting stepparent must verify their employment and provide references from three unrelated people. Finally, once the investigation is complete, the investigator reports to the court. Then, they make a recommendation regarding whether the adoption should proceed.

After the investigation comes the hearing.  When you adopt a stepchild, the stepparent, custodial parent, and child all must attend the hearing.  The petitioner should bring the Adoption Agreement (ADOPT-210) and the Adoption Agreement (ADOPT-215). Fill these forms out, but leave them unsigned. The courts typically make the adoption hearing a special occasions. After all, it is an important day for both the child and the stepparent, Parents often invite friends and family to the hearing. Often, after the hearing, the family can take a picture with the judge to commemorate the occasion.

Stepparent Adoption is Serious Business

There are so many valid reasons for stepparent to adopt a stepchild. However, even the best intentions do not always mean the adoption is right for the child, however. If you want to make the best case possible for your adoption request, contact A People’s Choice for more information about stepparent adoptions. Not only can we  help prepare all of the necessary documents for a stepparent to adopt a stepchild stepchild, we can help terminate the parental rights of an absent biological parent. Call us today at 805-648-5540.

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