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Stepparent Adoptions

In the typical stepparent adoption case, the stepparent wants to adopt his or her spouse's child born in a previous relationship or marriage. Oftentimes this is an extension of terminating parental rights of one of the parents, and actually is often a necessary step in moving to terminate a non-custodial parent's rights. California courts take the termination of a parent's rights very seriously and will rarely do so unless a step-parent adoption is also pending. There are many exceptions to the "rule" however, so it is very important to have a qualified attorney do a personal evaluation of your situation.

In order to proceed with a stepparent adoption in California, the following legal requirements must be met:

  • The adopting and legal parent must be legally married or in a domestic partnership registered with the state (Family Code 9000). If you are not married to, or domestic partners with, the child's parent, you may still be able to adopt using the "second parent adoption" procedure. That is a very complex process, and will require the assistance of an attorney.
  • The adopting parent must be at least 18 years old and at least 10 years older than the child (Family Code 8600-8601). The 10-year age difference may be waived in some situations.
  • The adopting parent's spouse or domestic partner must consent to the adoption (Family Code 8603).
  • The child's other legal parent must consent to the adoption. If you cannot locate the other parent, or if the other parent refuses to consent to the adoption, you may still be able to adopt the child. There are several different methods for finalizing a stepparent adoption without parental consent (Family Code 8604-8606).
  • If the child is 12 years or older, the child must consent to the adoption (Family Code 8602).

(Source: Sacramento County Public Law Library)

Many times the adoption involves terminating the parental rights of an absent parent, and we hear lots of questions surrounding the issue of an absent parent. One of the most frequently asked question is "What if the absent parent refuses to cooperate? " There are numerous reasons why the absent parent refuses to cooperate, or sometimes they simply cannot be found. Sometimes the absent parent may not have seen or supported the child in many years, and they refuse to cooperate even though the adoption would be in the best interest of the child. When the child has gone without contact and support from the absent biological parent for a significant period of time (usually a year or longer), the absent parent can be treated by the Court under the law as an abandoning parent.

Another question we hear frequently is "How long does it take?" Of course the answer is usually "it depends"! If all parties are available and willing to sign the consent forms, the process can usually be accomplished in as little as four months. If the absent parent is not cooperative, it can be a very lengthy process, but in most cases can be accomplished in a year.

Clients also ask, "How much does it cost?" The cost varies depending on the complexity of your personal situation, so the best way to get an accurate estimate of how much your case will cost is to contact us and talk through the specifics of your case. Our attorneys are highly experienced with handling child abandonment cases and providing termination of parental rights and stepparent adoptions; as a result, we have the background and skill set needed to expertly guide our clients through this delicate process, and we look forward to discussing your situation!

Disclaimer – The materials contained in this blog have been prepared for informational purposes only. The information contained is general in nature, and may not apply to particular factual or legal circumstances. In any event, the materials do not constitute legal advice or opinions and should not be relied up on as such.

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