Adopting a Stepchild - Adoption Lawyer Los Angeles | Burns Law

Adopting a Stepchild

Information About Adopting Your Stepchild, Including How to Handle Obtaining Parental Consent

Through marriage to your spouse, you may have grown considerably closer to his/her children. You might be wondering how to legally adopt a stepchild in order to show them how you unconditionally care for them and want them to feel safe. Adopting a stepchild can also sever ties with a toxic parent; additionally, becoming their legal parent will also ensure that they can remain under your care in the event that something happens to your spouse.

When considering adoption, the first thing to consider is whether or not this is the right step. Every family is different, and it’s important to keep the child’s needs front and center. If you think adopting your stepchild will bring them comfort and stability, then you should contact an attorney for adoptive step parents so you can fully comprehend the legality of this process. 

Getting Started 

Going through adoption requires a lot of time, effort, and patience. Even though you may already feel like an official parent, there’s a considerable amount of legality involved in actually adopting your stepchild.  While it’s not as complicated as other types of adoptions, it’s still lengthy, which is why you would benefit from getting a lawyer for family law in Los Angeles involved. Unlike other kinds of adoptions, courts usually bypass the need for social worker welfare checks and home inspections.

You should research adoption laws in your state, as well as all the documents you should gather to begin the process. These include:

  • Child’s birth certificate, stating their current full legal name
  • Marriage certificate showing length of marriage to biological parent
  • Written consent from the child’s other biological parent

Your legal counsel can gather these documents for you. You also need to let the courts know what you intend to change the child’s name to. 

Permission From the Biological Parents 

Even if the other parent does not actively care for your stepchild, you will still need to obtain their permission to proceed. In the best case scenario, the other parent gives their consent to the adoption because it’s in the child’s best interest. Adopting your stepchild means the noncustodial parent will no longer have to pay child support once the adoption is finalized.

When the biological parent consents to the adoption, you can file a joint request. That means they will give up all parental rights, such as:

  • No longer make any decisions for the child 
  • Giving up all visitation rights with the child
  • Giving up the right to communicate with the child

As the legal parent, you will have the authority to determine what visitation and communication is allowed. In the event that the other parent is not involved in the child’s life, it is usually much easier to convince them to give their permission, but it’s not uncommon for biological parents to be hesitant to give up these rights, in exchange for a blended family.

In the case that you can’t get in contact with the parent or they flat out refuse, it is still possible to adopt the child. However, you will have to take the parent to court. This is where an adoption dispute lawyer in Los Angeles will come in handy. He or she will try to prove one of the following: 

  • Abandonment - Adoption courts usually define abandonment as no contact or financial support for at least one year. If this is the case with your stepchild’s biological parent, then the courts can terminate parental rights.
  • Unfitness - If the other parent has been abusive or neglectful towards the child, then they can be deemed an unfit parent in court. Courts will also deem them unfit if they have failed to visit, suffer from a mental disturbance, are currently living with substance addiction, or are incarcerated. If any of these situations apply and the biological parent’s spouse is stable, the court may involuntarily terminate the other parent’s rights and allow the adoption to continue.
  • Paternity Issues - It’s possible that the child’s father is not actually the biological father. In cases where the couple was married at the time of the birth, the mother’s husband is presumed to be the father. If you can prove that the biological parent and your stepchild are not actually related by blood, then you won’t need to obtain consent to adopt.

Your New Lives Together 

A month or two after your preliminary adoption hearing, you will be required to attend a final adoption hearing, and this is where you’ll be presented with an adoption certificate if all goes well. Once the adoption is final, you can obtain a new birth certificate with you and your spouse listed as the parents. 

Even if the adoption is welcomed by all parties involved, it can still be an emotional and difficult legal process. It’s important to have a strong support system of friends and family in place, and it’s recommended that you hire a family lawyer from The Law Offices of Nigel Burns. Involving a legal professional in your stepchild adoption process will make it easier, ensuring a desired outcome. We work tirelessly to make sure your adoption is approved as quickly as possible. 

We can also help you with:

Call| Text