Stepparent Adoption Los Angeles
Most Common Adoption
Stepparent adoption is the most common type of adoption. It is when the custodial parent’s new spouse or domestic partner adopts the child.
You do not need to be married for a minimum amount of time to adopt your stepchild.
It is a huge step for a stepparent to adopt a child – he/she becomes the “legal” parent of the child, and the family is complete.
Grants Rights and Obligations and Security
Not only does the stepparent adoption grant new rights and obligations, it provides security for the child in case the custodial parent passes away, or is otherwise unable to care of the child. Without the adoption, the stepparent has few legal rights.
Benefits of Stepparent Adoption
- If the biological parent and stepparent divorce, the adoptive stepparent would be granted custodial rights. (Without a stepparent adoption, the stepparent’s custodial rights are limited).
- If the biological parent and stepparent divorce, the adoptive stepparent would have an obligation to support the child and pay child support.
- If the custodial parent passes away and or becomes incapacitated, the adoptive stepparent would have custody by default.
- The adoptive stepparent could consent to medical treatment of the child.
- The child can receive health insurance under the adoptive stepparent.
- The child can receive social security disability benefits if the adoptive stepparent becomes disabled.
- The child may inherit from the adoptive stepparent.
Requirements To File a Stepparent Adoption
The stepparent must be a resident of the County you are filing the Petition for Stepparent Adoption. The child must be under 18 (if over 18, see Adult Adoption). The stepparent must be married to (or registered domestic partner) the child’s parent.
You may be able to file a second-parent adoption.
In a stepparent adoption, a social worker will be assigned to conduct a “home study”. The Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) usually charges $700 for this.
You may also use a private agency which may expedite the process.
During the home study, the social worker will interview the stepparent and custodial parent, andobtain consents. There will also be a background and criminal records check. After completing the investigation, the worker will then file a report with the Court.
Consent From Child, Custodial and Non-Custodial Parents
The adoption will require the consent of the child (if 12 of older), the Custodial and the Non-Custodial parents.
If the non-custodial parent (usually birth father) will not sign the Consent to Adoption, you must then obtain a court order to terminate their parental rights.
Termination of Parental Rights
The procedure for terminating parental rights differs depending on which category the birth father falls into. “Presumed” fathers have stronger rights than “alleged” fathers.
If Birth Father is Alleged
Generally, an alleged father is someone who:
- was never married to the mother,
- is not named on the child’s birth certificate,
- has never had the child in his home,
- does not have a paternity judgment
- never signed the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity
With alleged fathers, the court does not require his consent. However, notice is required. The Court will require proof that he was properly served and had the opportunity to respond and object, before his parental rights are terminated.
If Birth Father is Presumed
A presumed father is someone who:
- was married to the birth mother,
- is named as the father on the original birth certificate,
- has a family court order establishing parental relationship
- or has lived with the birth mother and the child and has told people that he is the father.
A presumed father has the same rights and responsibilities as the birth mother.
The adoption cannot proceed without the presumed father’s consent, and unlike alleged fathers, giving him notice is not enough.
See also California Paternity Cases Who’s Your Daddy
If Birth Father is Presumed, and Does Not Consent, Must Terminate Parental Rights
If Birth Father is Presumed, and Does Not Consent, you must terminate Parental Rights by filing a Petition for Freedom from Parental Custody and Control. The most common ground for this to be granted is abandonment. Termination of parental rights of a presumed parent is a complicated matter with lots of moving parts. Consult an attorney.
New Birth Certificate
After the adoption is final, you will receive a new birth certificate for the child changing their name, and replacing the birth parent with the adoptive stepparent.
Our offices handle stepparent adoptions in Los Angeles, and most of California.
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