Deciding to adopt a child is an exciting and life-changing event. Adoption is not only a chance to grow your family, but an opportunity to give a child a fresh start and a stable future.But unfortunately, the complexity, time, and money involved in the adoption process scare off many potential adoptive parents. When dealing with a California adoption, it is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side.No matter what type of adoption you are seeking, family lawyer Heath Baker can help. A Riverside native himself, Mr. Baker understands the unique challenges and difficulties of the adoption process, and he has the skills and experience to help your family. Call (951) 222-2228 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.
Stepparent and Domestic Partner Adoptions
The steps to obtaining a stepparent or domestic partner adoption are as follows:
- Fill out court forms, including the Adoption Request, the Adoption Agreement, and Adoption Order with the help of a family law attorney (or at least have an experienced attorney review the forms after they are complete)
- File the forms with the court clerk, which includes paying a filing fee
- Serve your adoption papers on the other birth parent, which requires having another adult (not the person seeking the adoption) present the documents and the court date to the other parent
- Talk to the child about the adoption, keeping in mind that children 12 and older must consent to the adoption for it to be approved
- Get consent from the other birth parent, which is discussed further below
- Have an interview and investigation with an investigator, who will write a report and file it with the court (not always required in stepparent/domestic partner adoption)
- Get a court date
- Go to your adoption hearing with the child, where a judge will make the final ruling if all forms are in order
One important part of stepparent/domestic partner adoptions is consent. A stepparent or domestic partner adoption terminates the parental rights of the child’s other birth parent. As such, the court requires that the non-custodial birth parent consent to the adoption.
In many cases, the other parent will consent to the adoption without much trouble. But in certain cases, the non-custodial parent may disagree with the decision to adopt. In this case, the custodial parent (the one who has custody of the children and is seeking the adoption) may still be able to adopt if:
- The other birth parent has abandoned the child for more than one year, has not paid any child support, or has not seen or talked to the child
- The adoption papers are served on the other birth parent properly, and the birth parent must come to the court date to object to the adoption
- The judge decides the adoption is in the child’s best interest
In any case, the judge will make the final determination as to whether or not to terminate parental rights.
It is important to note that, even if the custodial parent’s name (usually the mother) is the only one on the birth certificate, you must still make an effort to find the other parent. Even if it is hard to say who the parent is or where they are, a judge will ensure that you have exhausted all avenues for finding the other biological parent. Essentially, this is to prevent people from obtaining adoptions without informing the other biological parent of what is happening. It is important to document the dates, times, and results of your efforts to find the other parent for proof later on in court.
Second-parent adoptions are most common among unmarried couples one adult has a child from a previous relationship. When the two unmarried people are living together with a child, the non-biological parent often acts in a parental role, but he or she technically has no legal claim to the child. This can become frustrating when the non-biological parent realizes he or she is not legally involved in big decisions, such as where the child will go to school, which doctor the child should go to, and how the child should be raised. Non-biological parents are also usually unable to sign medical forms or school documents without being legally recognized.
“Second-parent adoption” allows a non-biological parent to adopt his or her partner’s child. Second-parent adoptions are often more difficult to obtain than stepparent adoptions, as the courts tend to favor married couples. However, this is not to say it can’t be done; the court will always put the child’s best interest first.
Second-parent adoptions must be approved by both biological parents, as long as the other biological parent maintains some sort of relationship with the child. If the non-custodial biological father has abandoned the child or is unfit to be a parent, the unmarried couple can obtain a second-parent adoption without his approval. However, if the biological parent has maintained a relationship with the child, has tried to maintain a relationship with the child (but was kept away by the other parent or someone else), or has provided support for the child over the years, he could have grounds to dispute the second-parent adoption.
The best way to sort through the legal challenges of a second-parent adoption is to contact an experienced family lawyerto help you through the process.
Independent, Agency, and International Adoptions
There are three different options for adopting children that you or your partner are not related to. All three of these options end the parental rights of the child’s birth parents, and the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.
- Independent adoption: when an adoption case is handled outside of adoption agencies and the Department of Social Services
- Agency adoption: when the California Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency handles the adoption case
- International adoption: when the prospective adopted child was born in another country, often involving an agency from that country or an agency that specializes in international adoptions
Contact the Law Office of Heath Baker
You and your children deserve committed, vigorous representation from an attorney who truly cares. The Law Office of Heath L. Baker is dedicated to finding the best solution for you and your family, and you can count on family attorney Heath Baker to diligently prepare your case to win.
If you have questions about the adoption process or are ready to get the process started, trust The Law Office of Heath L. Baker. Mr. Baker represents clients in all Riverside and San Bernardino courts, as well as select locations in San Diego and Orange County. Call (951) 222-2228 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.