While it is not mandatory for a stepparent to adopt the child of their spouse, voluntarily assuming parental responsibility can have a huge, beneficial impact on a child’s life. But the process of stepparent adoption in California is complex. An experienced Fresno family law attorney can help you complete the adoption as efficiently as possible.
Who Qualifies as a Stepparent?
When a stepparent adopts a child, they take on the legal responsibility of the child’s health, safety and well-being, while one biological parent still retains custody and control of the child.
To be eligible for stepparent adoption, you must be married to or registered as a domestic partner to one of the child’s birth parents. If you are not, you do not have any legal standing for stepparent adoption.
If you qualify, you can proceed with the process of stepparent adoption. However, you will also need to obtain consent from both biological parents, if both are still alive.
What Is the Process of Stepparent Adoption in California?
Generally, the process will look something like this:
Filing an Adoption Request to the Court
You will need to file an Adoption Request to the proper California court. In this form, you will list information about yourself, the child and your relation to said child, and any other relevant information about the child’s parents or other guardians. Once your request is filed, the court will send your petition to both living biological parents.
Social Services Investigation
After filing your Adoption Request, the court will arrange a brief investigation from Social Services. Typically, these investigations are straightforward, as Social Services is simply attempting to determine if adoption will serve in the child’s best interests.
Terminating Non-Custodial Parental Rights
Before you can adopt a stepchild, you must terminate the parental rights of the living non-custodial parent. This will effectively “free” the other parent from parental obligations such as child support. That also means that the other parent will no longer have a right to court-ordered visitation.
Most non-custodial parents typically consent to the termination of their parental rights. However, the adoption process becomes much more complicated when the other parent is missing or does not consent.
Hearing Before the Court
The final step involves a hearing before the court. During this hearing, the presiding family court judge will determine if the adoption will serve in the child’s best interests. This could include speaking directly with the child, in some cases. If the judge approves of the adoption, you will legally become the child’s parent.
Consult an Experienced Stepparent Adoption Attorney
Parenthood does not require DNA. If you love your stepchild and wish to adopt them, we can help. To increase your chances of successful adoption, and to speed up the process, consult with the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.