Santa Barbara Family Law Attorney Explains the Step-Parent Adoption Process
Adoption is the legal process of creating a permanent, legally binding parent-child relationship when the adopting individual is not the biological parent to the child. This process results in the adoptive parent having the same legal rights and responsibilities as a biological parent. It’s important to discuss this process with a Santa Barbara family law attorney. This article aims to explain the general process of adoption of a child by a stepparent.
Stepparent adoption is the most common form of adoption. There are two forms of stepparent adoption. If you answer yes to the following questions, you are not seeking the basic stepparent/domestic partnership adoption, but the stepparent adoption to confirm parentage:
- Was the adopting parent married to, or in a legally recognized domestic partnership or union with the birth parent at the time the child was born?
- Is the adopting parent still married to, or in a legally recognized domestic partnership or union with, the birth parent?
Get Consent of the Other Parent
A good first step is to reach out to the parent whose parental rights will be terminated upon this adoption. A consent form should be filled out and signed by the relinquishing parent. Even if the other parent doesn’t want to sign the consent form and doesn’t agree to relinquishing his or her rights, there is a process called Termination of Parental Rights, in which the parental rights of an individual are extinguished through court order.
Though it may be uncomfortable, it is still necessary to reach out to the other parent. A Santa Barbara family law attorney can make suggestions in the best way to approach this. Even if you are sure that he or she will not agree and you will have to seek a court override, the court needs to know that the other parent was notified of an intention to adopt and had the chance to address the court. The court could deny an individual seeking adoption if the other parent makes a strong case for why his or her rights should not be terminated.
The individual seeking to adopt must demonstrate that an effort was put forth to contact the other parent even if his or her identity or location is unknown. Make sure to keep track of all dates, times, and relevant details of your search for the other parent. If you can show you tried everything possible, especially with the help of a Santa Barbara family law attorney, and the other parent could not be found, the court will likely terminate his or her rights and grant the adoption so long as all other requirements are met.
Depending on the circumstances of the parent whose rights will be terminated, a specific form needs to be filed and submitted.
- If the other parent consents to the termination of his or her parental rights, have the consent form signed
- If the other parent does not want to relinquish their rights, fill out and mail in a Petition to Terminate Parental rights
- If the other parent is the mother or presumed father, fill out the Abandonment Petition Freeing the Child from Parental Custody and Control
- If the other parent is the alleged father, fill out the Termination Petition Terminating the Parental Rights of the Alleged Father
Filing to Adopt in California
There are three forms that need to be filled out and presented to the Superior Court of the relevant county. These forms are:
- Adoption Request (Adopt-200)
- Adoption Agreement (Adopt-210)
- Order of Adoption (Adopt-215)
- Indian Child Inquiry Attachment (ICWA-010(A))
Bring these forms unsigned to the court. There is a filing fee of $20 for each child the adopting stepparent would like to adopt. Contact a Santa Barbara family law attorney for questions pertaining these documents.
Once the request has been filed, the court’s Probate Court Services Department will be notified to begin an investigation. The individual seeking to adopt will be sent forms to complete and will need to obtain some documents, such as a birth certificate, for court review. Once these documents have been reviewed, an investigator will interview the individual seeking to adopt, the spouse or partner, as well as the child or children. Additionally, the person petitioning for adoption will need to provide three references from unrelated individuals and will need to undergo a background check as well as verification of employment. The investigative process varies depending on the circumstances of the case but your Santa Barbara family law attorney can explain in details.
Hearing Before a Judge
The final step is to have a hearing before a judge. After receiving positive results from the investigation, call the court to set up a hearing. The individual seeking to adopt, the custodial parent, and the child or children must attend. Children over the age of 12 are asked for consent of being adopted. This is a joyous occasion as the adoption has essentially been approved after the investigation.
Seeking Legal Assistance in Southern California
Adopting a child is a very important and cherished event in a person’s life. To make things go as smoothly as possible and to prevent as many family disruptions as is feasible, seeking a Santa Barbara family law attorney can help. The road to adoption can be quite bumpy and individuals may get frustrated or angry. Having an experienced legal representative can help get you through the process with the least amount of headaches.
Call a Santa Barbara Family Law Attorney for Any Adoption Needs You Have
At Drury Pullen Law, we specialize in family and civil litigation throughout southern California. We have the skills and experience to get the results you deserve. If you’re dealing with any type of adoption, including stepparent adoption, make sure to speak to a Santa Barbara family law attorney for legal guidance. Give us a call at (805) 879-7523.