Adult adoption, though less common than child adoption, is a legal process one adult can use to adopt another. Adult adoption is done for various reasons, such as if a stepparent is interested in formalizing a parent-child relationship or avoiding inheritance issues. There are also substantial benefits for an adult child with life-long disabilities requiring perpetual care.

However, stepparent adoption of an adult in California requires different processes and forms from adoption of a child. Keep reading to learn more about what is required to ensure proper adoption of an adult.

Requirements for Adult Adoption in California

When an adoptee is an adult, there is no need to get parental permission for the adoption. However, adoption does end a prior parental relationship. The court does not require any social services home study reports to submit an adoption request. That said, the court does require that the adopting adult is at least 10 years older than the adoptee, and the adopting parent and the adoptee must agree to the adoption.

Spousal Consent

If married, both the adopting parent and the adoptee need permission from each of their spouses before the adoption can take place. Some courts require a declaration of single status if there are no spousal consents necessary.


After the court finalizes the adoption, the parents must agree to all the rights and responsibilities of a parent-child relationship. Generally, the parties must present an agreement to the court showing they understand and agree to this requirement.

Forms for Stepparent Adoption of an Adult in California

There are five documents most California counties require for stepparent adoption of an adult or other adult adoption:

  • Petition
  • Signed agreement to the adoption by the adopting parent and adoptee
  • Consent of the parties’ spouses
  • Order
  • Memorandum setting a hearing for the final adoption hearing

In the petition, the parties must explain the nature of their relationship to the court and how long they have known each other. Then, they must explain why they are interested in the adoption process. The court will inquire whether the adoption is in the public’s best interest. Typically, when a stepparent seeks to solidify an informal parent-child relationship or care for an adult with disabilities, the court will find the adoption in the public interest.

Other Regulations

An adult may not adopt more than one adult within a certain time frame, usually a year. However, there is an exception if the adults are siblings. In some counties, after a finalized adoption, parents can apply for an amended birth certificate.

How to Terminate Parental Rights With Stepparent Adoption

In order for a stepparent to adopt their spouse’s child, the couple must be legally married or registered as domestic partners. Social Services prefers that the marriage exist at least one year prior to adoption. However, this is not a legal requirement. That said, in order for a successful stepparent adoption, either the birth parent must consent to the adoption or the stepparent must file a petition to terminate the birth parent’s rights.

Option 1: Obtain Parental Consent

Getting consent for adoption from the birth parent is best for all parties. Some birth parents may consent to the adoption because they truly believe it is in the best interest of the child. On the other hand, some birth parents give consent to stepparent adoption because they no longer want to provide financial support. Regardless of their reasoning, the birth parent must provide written consent to the adoption for it to legally take place.

It’s important to note that a birth parent who provides consent to stepparent adoption gives up all parental rights. For example, they surrender the right to visit their child or make decisions about their education and medical treatment.

Option 2: Terminate Parental Rights

If the birth parent does not consent to stepparent adoption, the court must terminate their parental rights in order for the adoption to occur. Alternatively, a stepparent can get a court order to end the birth parent’s parental rights. A stepparent will have to prove to the judge that they tried everything possible to obtain consent to adopt from the birth parent. Ultimately, California allows a stepparent to terminate parental rights of a birth parent for a variety of reasons:

Willful Failure to Communicate or Support vs. Child Abandonment

The court may terminate parental rights in California if the stepparent can prove a biological parent has failed to communicate with and support the child for more than one year. Such behavior is called willful failure to communicate or support. Based on the circumstances, the biological parent’s behavior may be deemed child abandonment.

In the case of alleged willful failure to communicate or support, a judge will review the biological parent’s actions to terminate parental rights at the same time the stepparent petitions for adoption. On the other hand, in the case of abandonment, the court must notify the absent parent’s immediate relatives of the action against them. The court will hold a separate hearing on the status of abandonment prior to the adoption proceeding.

Alleged Fathers

In some circumstances, the biological father of the child may be unknown, and his name is missing from the birth certificate. However, assuming there is an alleged father, the stepparent must serve him before petitioning to terminate potential parental rights. At this point, the alleged father can waive further notice. If he does not file a paternity action within 30 days, the court can terminate his rights. In most cases the court does not require a hearing in this situation. Instead, the judge will sign an order after the filing of the petition to terminate rights and supporting declarations.

A People’s Choice Provides Low-Cost Legal Document Help for Adult Stepparent Adoptions

If you are considering filing an adult stepparent adoption in California and want to avoid the high cost of attorney’s fees, contact A People’s Choice for low-cost legal document help. Although we cannot give legal advice, A People’s Choice can help you prepare all the required legal documents to help you to complete your adult adoption without having to hire a lawyer.