When someone marries a man or woman who has a child from a previous relationship, he or she will become the child’s stepparent, but that is not the same as legally adopting a child. For example, if a man were to marry a woman with an infant, even if he raises the child since she was a baby, the girl would not inherit from the stepfather if he died without a will. But if the man had legally adopted the girl, she would inherit from him if he died without a will under California’s intestate succession laws, which take effect when someone dies without a will.
It’s the same with Social Security benefits. Once a child is legally adopted by a stepparent, the child automatically earns the right to the stepparent’s Social Security benefits. But in the absence of legal adoption, the child does not enjoy the same rights and benefits as an adopted stepchild. So, Social Security and inheritance rights are two valid reasons for stepparents to legally adopt their stepchildren.
What About the Birth Parent?
Generally, for a stepparent to adopt a stepchild, they need to get the other birth parent to consent to the adoption. If he or she has an objection to the adoption, the stepparent may still be able to adopt the child if the birth parent abandoned their child for more than a year and they have not paid child support or they have not spoken to or seen their child.
To proceed with a stepparent adoption, you will need to serve the child’s other birth parent with what is called an Adoption Request. The other parent will have to appear in court on the scheduled date and time. This will be the birth parent’s opportunity to object to the adoption if that’s what they want to do. After hearing the other parent’s objection, the judge may decide to go ahead and allow the adoption, that is if it is in the child’s best interests.
If your stepchild is 12 or older, he or she has to want to be adopted by you before the judge will agree to the adoption and make it final. If the child is under 12, he or she will not have to agree. At the adoption hearing, you must bring all the appropriate forms and they have to be filled out. The child will have to attend the hearing as well, regardless of their age.
To learn more about stepparent adoptions in California, we invite you to contact Arnold Law Group, APC today.