What is a stepparent adoption?

If you and your spouse or domestic partner have one of California’s many blended families, you may have thought about adopting each other’s children so as to make the parent-child relationships legal as well as factual. The State of California is ready and willing to help you achieve your dream of stepparent adoption by making the process as easy as possible.

California has two different stepparent adoption processes. The stepparent adoption to confirm parentage process applies if (1) you were married to or in a registered domestic partnership with one of the child’s birth parents at the time of the birth; and (2) you and the birth parent are still married or registered domestic partners. The regular stepparent/domestic partner adoption process applies in all other situations.

Parentage confirmation adoption

This is the easiest type of California adoption. Working with your attorney, simply read, fill out and sign the proper forms and file them with the clerk of the court in the county where you live. You must pay a nominal filing fee. If the child you are seeking to adopt is age 12 or older, (s)he must consent to the adoption. Assuming (s)he does, that is all you need do. The judge will issue an adoption finalization order without your needing to actually go to court for a hearing.

Regular stepparent adoption

In a regular stepparent adoption, you must be the spouse or registered domestic partner of one of the biological parents of the child you are seeking to adopt. If neither the California Department of Social Services nor an adoption agency is part of the adoption, the parental rights of the other biological parent do not necessarily have to be terminated if that parent agrees to the adoption.

Naturally you must notify the child’s other biological parent that you wish to adopt the child and, if possible, get his or her consent. You also must have the consent of the child if (s)he is age 12 or older. In some stepparent adoption cases, particularly if the California Department of Social Services is part of it, a social worker or other investigator must interview you and write a report recommending the adoption. After that, you, the child, and all other interested parties must appear before a judge at an adoption hearing. In most cases, the judge will terminate the other biological parent’s parental rights.

Once a judge finalizes either type of stepparent adoption, you and your adopted child have all of the same legal rights and obligations to and with each other as if (s)he had been born to you. Stepparent adoptions are pretty straightforward in California, but you must correctly fill out all the paperwork and follow all the procedural steps. Consequently, your best strategy is to consult an experienced stepparent adoption attorney who can guide you through the entire process.