Adoption is a wonderful time in both the child’s and stepparent’s lives. Stepparents may want to adopt a child for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it shows the child that a stepparent will be there for him or her if something happens to their natural parent. It also serves practical purposes as well. Stepparent adoption allows the stepparent to have all of the legal rights and responsibilities of the natural parent.
Stepparent adoption in California requires a few steps and fees. This blog provides more information as outlined below.
- Complete Certain Court Forms
To start the stepparent adoption process, you will need to complete four forms and submit them to the court:
- ADOPT 200: This is the formal adoption request. It tells the judge necessary information about you and the child.
- Form ADOPT 210: This form indicates to the judge that you agree to the adoption and, if the child is over 12, he or she also agrees. You should fill this form out, but do not sign it until the judge indicates you should do so.
- Form ADOPT 215: This is the formal adoption order. The judge will complete this form when your adoption is approved, but you can fill out as much is you can right now.
- Form VS 44: This form will be submitted to the Office of Vital Records once the adoption is complete. You should fill out Parts I and II.
You can take the completed forms to the court clerk and pay a $20 fee to get the filing process started. An experienced family law attorney will help you with this procedure.
- Complete the Investigation Process
The court investigator must investigate every adoption request. He or she will write a report that contains information about the parents and the child and provided it to the judge. The first step in the investigation is that you will complete a worksheet that provides basic information to the investigator. There is a $200 fee for the investigation.
- Gather and Provide Necessary Documents
You will need the child’s birth certificate, your marriage license, and, if applicable, a death certificate from the child’s natural parent. Certain documents will also need to be certified. For example, if any of the following documents apply to your situation, you will need a certified copy from the court:
- Final Judgment of Dissolution
- Any court order providing custody of the child (may be in the divorce decree)
- Any order terminating parental rights or declaring the minor free from parental custody and control
- Consent or Ending Parental Rights
If the biological parent is giving up custody of the child, you will need approval on a specific form that you can obtain from the clerk’s office. If you know where the parent is located, the court investigator can help you with this process.
In situations where the other parent does not want to give up his or her parental rights, you will need to start the process of terminating his or her rights. This must occur before the court hears your adoption petition. A family law attorney can help you with this process.
- Obtain Consent of the Parent Retaining Custody
You will also need to get the consent of the parent who still has custody of the child, your spouse, or your partner. This is simply a separate form that you should fill out to present to the clerk.
- Set a Hearing Date
Once you have completed the first five steps, you can call the court administration to schedule your adoption hearing. Your attorney will help you plan and prepare for this hearing.
Although the stepparent adoption process may seem straightforward, you can hit several hiccups along the way. Having a family law attorney on your side to help can be an extremely valuable resource.