When couples get divorced, they often discover happiness in building separate lives and starting new families. This can leave the child of a previous marriage feeling adrift and ultimately questioning where they belong, especially when both parents start having new children. For this reason, stepchild adoption can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience for both children and stepparents.
If you’re interested in bringing your family together, there are a few important things you need to know to successfully complete this life-changing legal process.
Filing an Adoption Request
The first step in the adoption process is filing an Adoption Request form (Adopt-200). The Department of Social Services is more accommodating if the stepparent has been married to the parent for at least one year. The court doesn’t want to put the child in a position to be disappointed by a parental figure. If you want to adopt more than one child, you’re going to have to fill out a form for each one.
The request needs to include the following:
- Information about you
- Information about the child
- Information about the birth parents
- Proof that both birth parents consent to the adoption
Once the necessary forms have been filed, a California social services agency will contact you about conducting an investigation to determine if the adoption is in the best interests of the child. This investigation usually involves interviews with the biological parent(s), the stepparent, and the child.
Terminating Parental Rights
Unfortunately, a child can’t have three legal parents. For the stepchild adoption to proceed, the noncustodial biological parent must be willing to terminate their legal parental rights. This can get tricky because many biological parents don’t want to lose their court-ordered visitation rights. Alternatively, some parents may be absent or currently unable to sign the form because they are deployed servicemembers. In which case, an attorney can help explore your legal options.
While a more complicated legal process, you can avoid obtaining consent by establishing that:
- The noncustodial birth parent has abandoned the child
- The noncustodial birth parent is an unfit parent
- The noncustodial birth parent never established paternity
Assuming everything goes well with social services agent and the biological noncustodial parent, your last step is to have a hearing before a family court judge. The judge will review the case and speak with the child before making a final determination.
Schedule a Consultation
Adopting a stepchild is a wonderful way to truly bring your family together. While the process may seem straightforward, stepparents often encounter unique and situational complications that require the knowledge and experience of a skilled legal representative. At Arnold Law Group, APC, our Fresno adoption attorney can help you effectively navigate each step of the adoption process.
Contact Arnold Law Group, APC at (559) 900-1263 to schedule a consultation with our legal team.