Our San Diego family lawyers can assist with adoption by a stepparent
A great way to solidify your parental relationship with your stepchild is through adoption. A stepparent may adopt a stepchild if he or she is married to the birth parent and has control and custody of the minor child. You will then become legally responsible for the child. This becomes important when there is a missing biological parent, where the parent has little contact with the child or they have simply abandoned the child. In these cases, the law generally allows for stepparent adoption.
Our San Diego adoption attorneys represent stepparents who wish to adopt. We also help mothers and fathers consenting to or contesting an adoption. As with any legal action, complications may arise in your efforts to unify your family through adoption. We are committed to assisting you and your family in developing options and clear expectations of the steps involved in the adoption process.
Adoption process. The adoption process involves terminating the other parent’s legal parental rights or consent, coordinating with the social worker charged with investigating and interviewing the child and performing all legal work and possible court appearances.
The process of adoption begins with the stepparent filing an adoption request. The biological parent that the stepparent is married to must be added to this request. The stepparent and biological parent must either terminate the other parent’s rights or request that the court continue without their consent. Every effort must be made to find and notify the absent parent of the request to terminate his or her parental rights and obtain his or her consent.
- Length of marriage. Though not required, the California Department of Social Services generally prefers that both the stepparent and biological parent make their petition for adoption at least one year after marriage.
- Home visit and investigation. In order to protect the best interests of the minor child the Department of Social Services (DSS) requires a home visit and investigation as part of the adoption process. A DSS investigator will interview the child, (depending on age) and will turn in their recommendations and findings to the court.
- Consent of biological parents. In order for the stepparent to become the child’s legal parent, both biological parents must agree to terminate the absent parent’s rights. There are many reasons why a biological parent would want to terminate their parental rights. A parent may believe it is in the best interest of the child due to financial or emotional reasons. There are also options to still see and spend time with your child, even if you have consented to the adoption, by drawing up a post adoption contact agreement. Children 12 and over must consent to a stepparent adoption and sign a consent form.
- Petition to terminate parental rights. If the biological parent refuses to consent, you must request that parental rights be terminated by filing a petition. In the petition, you must prove that the absent biological parent has not exercised their parental rights for a certain amount of time, that they have emotionally or financially abandoned the child or are unfit to be a legal parent.
A separate hearing will be set where the court will determine termination of parental rights. Grounds to terminate include abandonment, imprisonment, failure to provide child support, failure to have a meaningful relationship with the child, and the missing parent’s whereabouts are unknown.
Contesting the adoption. If you are a parent who does not want to consent to the stepparent adoption, we will assist you in contesting the petition to terminate parental rights by proving that you should remain your child’s legal parent. We have many years of skill and expertise to challenge and assure that your parental rights are protected.
Finalization of the adoption. When the adoption is complete, both parties have the same rights and obligations as biological parents. These rights include financial obligations, custody, child support obligations, inheritance and personal liability for your child’s intentional torts. Once adoption is complete, the birth parent (in most cases) will have no rights or obligations to the child.