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Adopting a child is a wonderful, but often challenging process for everyone  involved. Similar to any state within the US, California comes with its own specific set of rules when it comes to adoption.

Enlisting the help of a professional family lawyer with experience in adoption, such as Minella Law Group, is usually the best way to get your adoption completed expeditiously and efficiently.However, you want to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be for the process.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when adopting a child in California.

Different Types of Adoption in California

One of the very first things you will need to do is figure out what kind of adoption you’re going to be engaged in.  There are many different types which will determine what you will need to gather in order to finalize.

Relinquishment, or Agency adoption

This refers to the process wherein a licensed public or private agency places a child up for adoption. Up until the point when the adoption has been finalized, the agency will have legal custody of the child, either as a result of involuntary termination of the parents’ legal rights, or through voluntary relinquishment.

Independent adoption

This refers to when the birth parent of the child voluntarily decide to place their child up for adoption to prospective parents. The adoptive parents are specifically selected by the birth parents either through assistance of an organization or because they have a relationship with the prospective parents. This could be an open or closed adoption, but the main difference is the birth parents are willing participating in the process.

The prospective parents will need to file a petition to adopt, and arrange for an Adoption Service Provider to assist with the consent process which occurs after the birth of the child.  California requires the use of an Adoption Service Provider to work with the birth parents to make sure they understand their rights regarding relinquishment of their parental rights.

International adoption is a form of adoption that allows potential parents to take custody of a child from another country. In this case, a special visa will be granted to the child under the federal law, and the adoption process will be finalized in California court provided that jurisdictional requirement have been met.

The adoptive parents will be working with an agency in the country they are adopting from as well as Health and Human Services to process the adoption.

Step-parent adoption

This is when an individual chooses to adopt a spouse’s’ child due to failure to communicate or to form a relationship with their child.  If the adoptive parent can satisfy California standard under Family Code 7822 showing that there has been no meaningful contact or communication within a one year period.  This process is generally handled by Health and Human Services and if the petition is contested will result in a trial.

For all these types of adoption, the court will need to legally terminate either one or both parents parental rights in order for the adoptive parents to become the legal parents of the child.

Second Parent adoption

This is a type of adoption where a second parent can have a legal parental right to the child without terminating the parental rights of the other parent.  Under this adoption, the child will have two parents who have the ability to make decisions on the health, safety, and welfare of their child.  This option is best when two non marital cohabitants share parenting duties but only one party is the legal parent of the child due to an unwillingness to marry.

Regardless of which type of adoption you are looking for you will be required to participate in an investigation to determine if your home and you are fit to care for a child.

You will begin the process by actually filing the petition for adoption and paying the filing fee then participating in the investigation stage of the process.  You will have to gather documents for the social worker assigned to your case, if they are court documents, they will have to be certified. These include marriage license, divorce judgment, child birth certificate, custody orders, and fingerprints which can be obtained through Livescan.

Complete the Investigation and Finalize the Process to adopt a child in California

Since 2011, public agencies for adoption have begun to charge up to $500 for agency adoptions and as much as $4,500 for independent areas of adoption.

Your adoption social worker will need to know that you are fit to adopt before they allow you to take custody of a child. Generally, you will be assessed based on how well you will be able to meet a child’s needs. Often, you will be subject to a home study that includes an interview, as well as a medical, marital, criminal, and an employment background check.

Once the agency has approved you, the child for adoption will be placed in tentative care, and you will have to finalize your petition with the court. If your petition is successful, the court will make a final adoption order and you will be deemed the legal parent of the child.

For Step Parent adoptions, a social worker will meet with both parents and the step parent to determine if the criteria under Family Code 7822 has been met. They are looking to see if the biological parent has withheld the child or purposely hid the child to try and meet the criteria.  The social worker will issue a report on their findings and either recommend termination of parental rights or not.  The adoption cannot move forward until parental rights are terminated.


If you and your family are contemplating or going through an adoption, the qualified staff at Minella Law Group can assist you.  We will guide you through the process providing legal and emotional assistance the whole way. Adoption can be a very difficult length process but with experience and dedication from Minella Law Group on your side, it does not have to be. Call for a complimentary consultation, 619.289.7948


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