Terminating Parental Rights

Stepchild Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights in San Diego

The process of terminating parental rights results in a court order given by a judge which permanently severs the legal relationship between a child and parent. Typically, this process takes place when a court finds one or both parents to be unfit to raise their child, or when one or both parents decide to give up their parental rights in order to put their child up for adoption.

In a stepparent adoption in San Diego County, the adopting parent’s partner, and the child’s biological parent will retain their parental rights, but the legal relationship between the child and the other parent will be terminated.

A Concrete Transfer

Once this relationship has been terminated, that biological parent relinquishes all of their responsibility for and rights to the child, and the adoptive parent acquires these responsibilities and rights. Because of this, it is possible to regard stepparent adoption as the permanent transfer between two parties, of parental responsibilities and rights.

Once the adoption process for the stepparent has been completed, it cannot be nullified or revoked except for in very serious situations such as fraud, mental illness, disability, or legal defect. This means that if the stepparent and biological parent go through a divorce, the adoption process is not terminated.

How to Proceed with Adoption as a Stepparent

If you feel as though you would like to begin the process to adopt your step child, as a stepparent, you must be sure that you meet all of the legal requirements necessary. First of all, you, as the adopting parent, and the biological legal parent must be in a domestic partnership or marriage that has been registered within the state you live in.

If you are not partners with the child’s parent, there is a possibility that you will still be able to adopt through a process called ‘second parent adoption’, this is a more complex process that requires a thorough analysis of the facts.  The adopting, or stepparent, must be at least eighteen years old, and is often required to be ten years older than the child that they are adopting, but this requirement can be waived in some circumstances.

Acquiring Consent for the Adoption Process

One of the most important and complex steps of the adoption process is to obtain all the necessary consent. First of all, you will need to sit down and speak with your partner or spouse about the idea of adoption, and ensure that he or she agrees to it. After this has been established, you may need to get consent from the other legal parent of the child.

This can be particularly complex, and if you cannot get the consent required from the other parent in question, there are certain circumstances that may mean you are eligible to adopt the child as a stepparent anyway. For example, if the birth parent in question is unable to support or care for the child on an emotional, physical, or financial level, then their parental rights may be involuntarily terminated.

The biological parent can consent to the adoption and termination of their parental rights.  This will make the process easier as they will need to sign a form and the process is streamlined. There are ways to negotiate consent if there are significant child support arrears, they can be waived if consent is given.  Additionally, contact and visitation can also be agreed upon if consent is given.  Negotiating a settlement to avoid trial is best for everyone involved.

If the biological parent does not consent to termination, the court will have to decide.  This is done with a trial to see if the biological parent has abandoned the child as determined by the law.  There are different ways to deem that the child has been abandoned, the most common would be to show no contact or communication with the child for a period of one year.  An analysis of the facts involved needs to occur before filing a request to terminate rights to determine which method should be used.  This is a very serious process as the court does not terminate parental rights just because; the court needs to make decisions based on the best interest of the child.  You should consult an attorney to assist you with this request as there are many details involved.

The Child has a Say at Age 12

If the child in question is over twelve years of age, they must also consent to the adoption process.  If the child is under the age of 12, a social worker will determine if the adoption is in the child’s best interests.  Either way a social worker is assigned to investigate and meet everyone involved to determine if this placement is best for the child.  They will visit the home as well as interview all the parties involved.

 Minella Law Group Can Help!

If you need assistance with a step parent adoption and terminating parental rights, the qualified staff at Minella Law Group can assist you.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, click the button below, or call us at (619) 289-7948. We look forward to helping you.

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