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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

How does the stepparent adoption process work in California?

Bringing a child into one's family can be an exciting and challenging decision. If one decides to adopt, going through the legal process of adoption gives the new parent the same legal rights and responsibilities as the child's biological parent.

Under California family law, there are various forms of adoption, depending on family circumstances. For example, if one marries someone with a biological child from a previous relationship, they may decide to adopt that child through a stepparent/domestic partner adoption. This is the most common form of adoption. Generally, the stepparent/domestic partner adoption process is somewhat easier than other forms of adoption since the birth parent of the child will continue to be the child's parent.

If one is married or in a domestic partnership with the birth parent when the child was born and are still married or in a domestic partnership, a stepparent adoption confirms parentage. This type of adoption does not require an investigation by a social worker. All one needs to do is fill out the correct adoption forms, and file them with the court clerk. But, if the child is 12 or older, they must agree to the adoption before the judge will finalize it.

However, if one is not with the birth parent when the child was born or are not still with the birth parent, they will need to go through a stepparent/domestic partner adoption. Once they have filed the appropriate forms, they will have to serve the other parent (through someone else) with the adoption request form with a court date on it.

Ideally, the other parent will consent to the adoption. If they do not though, he hopeful new parent may still be able to adopt the child. But, they should consider meeting with a family law attorney because a legal battle between the non-consenting parent will likely be required.

If one gets consent, they will then move on to the investigation. A social worker will ask questions and write up a report once they complete their investigation. Then, the hopeful parent will get a court date for the adoption hearing, and the judge will make a decision.

Adopting a child is a big decision, but it can be one of the most rewarding decisions of one's life. If one decides to go through with the stepparent/domestic partner adoption process, consider talking to a qualified family law attorney.

Source: Courts.CA.gov, "Adoption," accessed on April 8, 2018

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