As adoption has such a significant impact on both a child and their parents, it is a major and often complicated legal process. A potential adoptive parent may need to navigate international adoption laws or come to an agreement with their significant other’s estranged or ex-partner. Regardless of the specifics of your situation, an adoption attorney at Shore, McKinley & Conger, LLP in Walnut Creek, Sacramento, or Stockton, CA, can guide you through the legal process to help ensure a successful outcome.
When you adopt a child, you undergo a process to establish a legal parent-child relationship, which grants you the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Once the adoption is final, that status is permanent. There are several types of adoption, including:
- Stepparent or domestic partner: This form of adoption occurs when the new partner or spouse of the child’s parent adopts the child.
- Independent: When an adoption takes place without the intervention of the Department of Social Services or an adoption agency, the parents transfer their parental rights to the adoptive parents.
- Agency: This type of adoption ensues when a licensed agency or the California Department of Social Services is associated with the case.
- International: This form of adoption is specific to cases in which the child is adopted from another country.
In the case of independent, agency, or international adoption, the court ends the parental rights of both the child’s birth parents. The adoptive parents become the official, legal parents. In cases where a child is adopted by a stepparent or domestic partner, at least one of the child’s birth parents retain their rights.
The Adoption Process
The first step is to research the adoption process in your area. California residents can consult How to Adopt a Child in California created by the state Judicial Branch. The specifics of your case will differ depending on what type of adoption you are pursuing. While all forms of adoption typically follow similar steps, stepparent and domestic partner adoptions require additional legal steps on the part of the adopting parties.
Basic Steps Involved
You will first need to fill out several forms, including an Adoption Request, Adoption Agreement, and an Adoption Order. It is important to have a family law attorney review your forms before you file them with the court clerk to ensure mistakes do not delay your adoption process.
An adoption attorney at Shore, McKinley & Conger, LLP can guide you through the legal process to help ensure a successful outcome.
If the child you are adopting is over the age of 12, they must agree to the adoption before the judge will finalize the process. You will also have to undergo an interview and investigation with a court investigator, a licensed social worker, or a licensed family therapist, who will file a report with the court. For independent, agency, and international adoptions, you will need to fill out an Adoption Expenses form in addition to the forms required in a stepparent adoption. The final stage in a stepparent or domestic partner adoption is to attend your adoption hearing with the child.
Unique Steps for Stepparents and Domestic Partners
When adopting your spouse or domestic partner's children, you must notify the other birth parent by having a third party serve them with the Adoption Request papers and obtain their consent. You may be able to adopt without consent if:
- The birth parent has abandoned the child for over a year, without paying child support or interacting with the child.
- The court previously terminated parental rights.
- The judge decides the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
Occasionally, a stepparent or domestic partner does not need to undergo a full adoption process. If you were married or in a domestic partnership with the birth parent at the time the child was born and are still married or in a partnership, your case will fall under an "adoption to confirm parentage" and may not require the services of a social worker or court hearing.
Have an Advocate by Your Side
Adoption is a complex and often emotional process, requiring an advanced understanding of family and adoption law. The lawyers at Shore, McKinley & Conger, LLP can provide you with sound guidance to make the adoption process easier. Call our offices at (209) 477-8171 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.