Stepparents play an important role in a child’s life. Many stepparents want to solidify their role as a child’s parent and fully accept the responsibilities and joys that come with it. Making the choice to adopt a child is an incredibly personal one, and likely comes with a slew of questions for both the parent and the child.
What Is A Stepparent Adoption?
A stepparent adoption is when the spouse of a child’s custodial parent (the parent the child lives with) adopts that child. It is the policy of the Social Services Agency that the custodial parent and the stepparent be married for at least one year prior to the adoption.
What Does the Process Entail?
Generally, to complete a stepparent adoption, the stepparent and custodial parent will first fill out the necessary forms and file a petition in the county in which the stepparent resides. Then, there will be a hearing in court on the matter, in which the child to be adopted, the custodial parent, and the adopting stepparent all attend. The court will then decide to grant the adoption or not.
The process can be also be broken down into 6 steps:
- Complete the necessary forms (can be downloaded from superior court website)
- Get consent from both birth parent and custodial parent
- Mail completed forms to social services
- Home visit and investigation with the Department of Social Services
- Schedule adoption hearing
- Attend adoption hearing
What Consent Do I Need?
The stepparent will need to get consent from the birth parent who is giving up custody of the child. If the birth parent does not want to sign a consent form, you can file a petition to end their parental rights.
However, there is always a question as to whether the birth parent’s consent is required. To answer this question, you have to determine whether that birth parent has consent rights under Family Code §§ 8604-8605 and the Uniform Parentage Act, and/or whether there are grounds to dispense the birth parent’s consent pursuant to Family code §§ 7800 or 8606.
You will also need to obtain the consent of the parent who is retaining custody of the child—in other words, the custodial parent. The custodial parent must sign a consent, in front of the Court Investigator, a court clerk, or a notary public, allowing his or her spouse/partner to adopt the child.
*Understanding consent can be tricky. For clarity, please contact one of the experienced attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri.
What Does the Court Consider?
The court’s primary concern in an adoption is the child’s best interest. The court hopes to maximize a child’s opportunity to develop into a stable, well-adjusted adult. The court will determine the least detrimental alternative for safeguarding the child’s growth that maximizes the child’s sense of being wanted.
What Happens After The Hearing?
If an adoption is entered, the adopted child and stepparent sustain the legal relationship of parent and child. They can enjoy all of the rights and duties of that relationship. This means that the stepparent has the right to make educational and medical decisions for the child, enter into contracts on the child’s behalf, and discipline the child among other things. Stepparents then can experience all the other joys and hardships that come with being a parent.
How Do I Start The Process?
If you seek to start the adoption process for yourself or a loved one, or have questions about birth parent consent to adoptions, please contact one of the experienced attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.