Blended families are very common today. As blended families continue to grow, stepparents are researching how to adopt their stepchildren. A People’s Choice can help you complete the paperwork you need to file a petition to adopt your stepchild in California. Read on to learn more about how you can terminate rights of parent in a stepparent adoption.

Stepparent Adoption Overview

In order for a stepparent to adopt his/her spouse’s child, the following criteria must be met:

  • The spouse or domestic partner of the child’s parent must adopt the child
  • The couple must be legally married or registered as domestic partners

Social Services prefers that the stepparent be married to the other parent at least one year before adoption, but this is not a legal requirement. In addition, the birth parent must consent to the stepparent adoption as discussed below or a petition to terminate rights of parent must be filed.

Obtain Parental Consent

The child’s biological parent must consent to the adoption. Providing consent to the adoption means the birth parent gives up all parental rights which include the right to visit the child or make decisions about his/her education and medical treatment. If the birth parent does not consent to the adoption, his/her rights must be terminated in order for the adoption to occur.

How To Terminate Rights of Parent in a Stepparent Adoption

Having the birth parent consent to the adoption 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. Consent is also given if the birth parent no longer has to financially support the child.  The birth parent must provide written consent to the adoption. Alternatively, a stepparent can also get a court order to end the birth parent’s parental rights. The stepparent will have to prove to the judge that he/she tried everything possible to find the birth parent and get him/her to agree to the adoption. California allows a party to terminate rights of parent for a variety of reasons.

Willful Failure To Communicate or Support

Parental rights can be terminated if the stepparent is able to prove that the biological parent has failed to communicate with the child and support the child for more than one year. Under such circumstances, the judge will review the biological parent’s actions to terminate rights of parent at the same time a petition is made for the adoption.

Child Abandonment

Parental rights can also be terminated if the stepparent is successful in showing that the child’s biological parent has failed to communicate with the child and failed to support the child in over a year. The absent parent’s immediate relatives must be notified of the action against the biological parent  to terminate their parental rights. A separate hearing on the status of abandonment must be held prior to the adoption proceeding.

Alleged Fathers

In some circumstances, the biological father of the child may be unknown. Often in these circumstances, the name of the father is not listed on the birth certificate. In this situation, the alleged father, if known, must be served with notice. The alleged father can also waive further notice or, if he does not file a paternity action within 30 days, his rights can be terminated. In most cases, no hearing is required in this situation, and the Judge will sign an Order after the filing of the Petition to Terminate Rights and supporting Declarations.

California Stepparent Adoption Process

The process of stepparent adoption requires completion of several forms along with the Petition to Terminate Parental Rights if the biological parent is not willing to consent to the adoption.

After the Petition has been filed with the court clerk, the documents must be served on the child’s birth parent. It is important to discuss the adoption with your child. A child must consent to the adoption if he/she is older than 12. The county will also arrange an investigation that is conducted by a social worker. There is an additional fee for the investigation which varies from county to county, but is usually about $600 or $700. If the birth parent does not agree to the adoption, as mentioned above, you will have to file a petition to prove that the parent has abandoned the child (has not paid any child support or visited with the child). In termination proceedings, there will be a separate hearing on that issue. The judge will review the case and make a determination whether to proceed with the adoption. At the final adoption hearing, all parties, including the minor will need to attend the hearing.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to terminate rights of parent in a stepparent adoption.

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