How to Legally Adopt a Stepchild
In some families, stepparents take a very active role in the upbringing of the children. Whether it is because the children’s biological parent has passed, or simply absent from the child’s life, stepparents are “stepparents” only in title, and real parents in every other sense. Under those circumstances, stepchildren adoptions may be very beneficial.
Adoption creates a legal parent-child relationship and gives the adoptive parents and children the exact same rights and obligations as biological parents in children would have. This can be accomplished in two ways: by consent of the biological parents or through a hearing. Legally speaking, the process is not overly complicated, if the biological parent consents. Practically speaking, consent may be difficult to obtain, which leaves most people with a court hearing as their only option.
This procedure may seem intimidating. However, having an experienced attorney for stepchild adoption in Los Angeles in your corner can ease the stress of your court hearing, and assure that your rights are protected. Additionally, our legal team has provided the resources below to support your chances of a successful adoption.
Alongside the legal parent, an adoptive stepfather or stepmother can establish a legal parent-child relationship through the adoption process. Even though you may already feel like an official parent, there is a considerable amount of legality involved in adopting your stepchild. The process is simpler than other forms of adoption, as the biological parent will remain as one of the child’s providers. However, a couple must be legally married or registered to be eligible for stepchild adoption. Permission from the other biological parent must be provided as well to file a joint request.
When the adoption is final, the stepparent will be able to obtain the legal rights and responsibilities associated with the role. It is a permanent decision that should not be taken lightly, as you will be responsible for providing child support. As for the noncustodial parent, their obligations for child support will end once the adoption is completed. As the legal parent of the child, you will have the power to determine what visitation and communication are allowed on behalf of the biological parent. For more information on stepchild adoption in detail, you can refer to this article.
When a couple agrees on adoption, they may not know exactly what to do next. The research was conducted, finances were evaluated, and conversations were held. As adoption becomes more common within families, our legal experts provide the most important aspects of the process parents and prospective parents should know. However, it is best to consult with a lawyer for family law in Los Angeles, to ensure you have legal guidance throughout the adoption process. Key contributing factors to consider:
- Having open conversations with the noncustodial parent, especially if he or she provides spousal support. Everyone involved must consent. Primarily, the birth parents must agree to terminate one’s parental rights. They have 90 days to revoke the decision.
- Understanding the timeline for court-mandated documents, hearings, and deadlines.
- Preparing for a social worker visit. They will evaluate the situation and determine if you have the psychological, emotional, and financial stability needed to properly care for a child.
- Before the process is finalized, giving notice to the respective parties.
- Submitting a petition, which includes detailed information regarding reasons why the noncustodial parent’s rights were ended and how the adoption will benefit the child.
- Attending the final court hearing once everything has been completed.
While following the procedure completely, with legal counsel, will strengthen the foundation of your adoption, there are nine additional things you should know. We understand this is an exciting time for your family, and our team of attorneys and lawyers want you to know these 9 factors:
- If Adoption Is Right Based on Your Particular Situation
- Importance of Hiring an Experienced Attorney for Stepchild Adoption
- Parental Permission and Consent
- How to Start the Legal Procedure by Filing a Petition to Adopt
- Court Hearing Preparation
- Apply for an Amended Birth Certificate
- Additional Legal Steps Per State
- Budget for Associated Fees
- Know that Support is Available to Help You Succeed
In California, there are various laws pertaining to child abandonment and how courts must handle these situations. To prove a biological parent has abandoned their child, stepparents, or current caretakers must prove that they were left for a period of at least six months without any communication taking place. Abandonment is also considered as any action that results in the child ending up in foster care or custody of the state.
If a stepparent has an interest in adopting a child, he or she should reach out to the other biological parent if applicable. Unfortunately, this is a challenging process for everyone involved. It is best for both parties to hire an experienced attorney that can facilitate discussions on possibilities of termination, and what that might look like for the child. The birth parent’s rights are terminated through a court order, or when a relinquishment is filed. In doing so, the stepparent can file for adoption. It will be an extensive process to show that care will be provided for the child, as well as safe living conditions and support. For more information on adoption after parent abandonment refer to this article.
If you are considering options to complete or build on your family, you may be wondering if there are fees for the adoption process.
Expenses vary per state and per county. In an agency adoption, for instance, an estimated amount of $500 is required to submit a report to the court. It can be adjusted or waived under certain conditions. You will also need to provide expenses for fingerprinting, medical examinations, and court filing. Additional routine legal procedures will normally cost between $100-$300.
Keep in mind, fees associated with private adoption agencies are not regulated by the state, making it challenging for prospective parents to take on the process alone. For stepchild adoption, both the legal parent and stepparent can only adopt in the county they reside in. You will follow the same process to file a report with the court, request a hearing, and set a date. To file in Los Angeles, it may cost $160.
Forms Associated with Adoption
As mentioned, there are a few legal documents both biological parents and prospective stepparents should fill out throughout the process. The first is ADOPT-050, a document that provides an overview of how to adopt a child in California, including requirements. Additional forms parents may have to complete are as follows:
- ADOPT-200: Adoption Request
- ADOPT-210: Adoption Agreement
- ADOPT-215: Adoption Order
Embracing a child into a new familial structure is a big step. It is important to keep in mind that children ages 12 or older must agree to the adoption for it to become final. While younger children do not, it may be easier for a couple to discuss what it means for them, the family, and the future.
At The Law Offices of Nigel Burns, we have a team of experienced legal professionals that can help you review the adoption forms before you submit them to the court. To avoid any delays during this sensitive process, we will ensure they are filled out properly and contain official documents when needed. Contact us today, to schedule a consultation.
FAQs About Adopting a Stepchild
Do I Need to Be Married to Adopt a Stepchild?
A child is not your stepchild unless you are married to one of the child’s biological parents. The only situations where you can adopt a child include:
- You are married to their biological or legal parent
- They have no legal parents
What Happens if We Get Divorced?
If you adopted your spouse's child, then you will be legally responsible for them and entitled to the same rights as a biological parent in the event you decide to call the marriage quits. Even in the event of a divorce, you will still have responsibility for the child, and you may have to pay child support if you don’t have full custody.
My Partner and I Are a Same-Sex Couple. Can I Adopt Their Child?
If your partner has a biological child from a past relationship, you may want to welcome them into your same-sex household. Since 2015, you and your same-sex partner can legally adopt like any other couple.