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How To Start Your Adoption Process In California

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

Are you planning to adopt a child in California? Take a look at the process and how a California Adoption lawyer would help you.


Adoption is described in California as the legal process by which the birth parent's parental rights are terminated and permanently transferred to the adoptive parents, with the adopted child being considered a family member. Even if you are single, do not own your own house, or are older, you can become an adoptive parent and adopt a child.


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When a California probate court appoints an adult who is not the child's parent to care for and tend to a child or a child's property, it is known as guardianship. If the child is not involved in a Family Court or Juvenile Court case, the probate court in California can only grant probate guardianship. Probate guardianships are divided into two categories: guardianship of the individual and guardianship of the properties.


Adoption Laws in California


Adoption is the legal process of forming a family between a parent or parents and a child who is not biologically related to them. Adoption laws vary by state, and there are many different forms of adoption. Adoption can take place between potential parents and an adoption agency, or it can take place between a private citizen and an adoption agency. Our prescreened California Family Lawyer will know the unique needs of LGBT children and parents.


Since adoption is finalized, the child's birth parents no longer have any legal rights over him or her. Many couples and even singles want to start a family but are unable to conceive or chose not to for a variety of reasons.


Adoption could be the best option for gay couples who want to start a family. Whatever your motivation for wanting to adopt a child, we have the specific Family Lawyer that we can match you with. Most adoption and foster care agencies strive to position children in the best possible environment for them, one that will enable them to grow up in a caring environment that will benefit both the child and the parents. There are thousands of children in foster care or pending adoption in the United States, and there's no reason you and your partner can't be the ones to adopt them.


While only married couples could adopt a child in the past, times have changed, and many other couples in relationships can now adopt openly and legally. When it comes to encouraging same-sex couples to adopt, whether married or not, California has some of the most progressive rules. Regardless of the legal issues, if you suit the "untraditional" position, you can expect to have a more difficult time adopting than if you have a "traditional" marriage with both parents. Before continuing, it's also crucial to understand the nuances of adoption laws in other states and countries. Some states and countries outright prohibit same-sex couples from adopting, and other prohibitions can raise concerns that could lead to future problems for adoptive parents and children.


What are the three forms of adoption in California?


1. Adoption and Foster Care


The children/minors are placed in a community home or a private home with a state-certified caregiver known as "foster parents." To keep the child safe, the group homes and caregivers must be evaluated on a regular basis by child welfare staff. After the court orders an adoption plan, the foster parents are often encouraged to adopt the infant.


2. Adoption


This is the ongoing procedure for assuming parental responsibility for an infant. Adoption entails the biological parents relinquishing their rights and obligations to the adoptive parents.


Biological parents can have some contact and interaction with their children after an open adoption. In 2009, the United States made it possible to use legally enforceable open adoption contract agreements in the adoption process.


There are seals shielding details in a closed adoption to avoid exposure of adoptive and biological parents. A closed adoption allows for the release of "non-identifying" material, such as the child's medical history and ethnic background. Both types of adoptions will be evaluated on a daily basis by childcare staff and government officials, regardless of the form of adoption.


3. Legal Guardianship


In layman's terms, a legal guardian is someone who has the legal right to look after another person's personal interests and property. In the event of death, a parent may name a legal guardian, but the court must accept this.


What are the requirements for Adoption in California?


A stepparent adoption, in which a non-genetic father and/or mother are involved, or independent adoption, in which a non-relative or relative, but not necessarily a stepparent, is involved. In all types of adoptions, the county conducts an audit.


Some of the conditions for adoption in California are as follows:

  • You must be at least 18 years old to participate.

  • You are at least ten years the child's senior.

  • You are either the stepparent or domestic partner of your spouse's child.

  • You are a spouse or an employee of a provider who provides board and care, medication, and shelter for people with intellectual disabilities.

  • You are either a single person or a married couple who may adopt.

  • If you're adopting an older child, make sure he or she is at least 12 years old and has given consent to the adoption.

The procedure is much simpler if the biological parent(s) agrees. If they refuse, a hearing to terminate their parental rights is scheduled. If the biological parents are poor, a Family Law Attorney Los Angeles is assigned to represent them. Children aged 12 and up can give their consent, which the court will consider in the proceedings.


If the biological parent's parental rights are revoked through an independent adoption, the State of California Health and Human Services Agency conducts a second investigation. Even in a stepparent adoption, a follow-up report is produced after parental rights are terminated. After completing such final reports, a motion for an Adoption Hearing is filed to receive the final adoption orders. Adoptions will take a long time if they are contested.


Specific Types of Adoption


For any form of family, there are a variety of adoption choices to consider. An adoptive parent who is a stepparent, a biological or legal parent's same-sex domestic partner, or a second parent in an unmarried or unregistered domestic partnership is all adoptions in which our prescreened Los Angeles, CA Family Lawyer specialize in.


1. A stepparent's adoption


Adoption is a fantastic way to cement your maternal relationship with your stepchild. If a stepparent is married to the birth parent and has control and custody of the minor child, he or she will adopt the child. After that, you will be held legally liable for the boy. This is especially significant when a biological parent is absent, has no interaction with the child, or has simply abandoned the child. Stepparent adoption is usually permitted in these situations. Complications may arise in your attempts to reunite your family through adoption, just as they do in any legal action. Our Prescreened California Family Law Attorneys will be assisting you and your family in developing adoption choices and setting specific goals for the steps involved.


The adoption procedure.


The adoption procedure entails terminating the other parent's legal parental rights or consent, working with the social worker in charge of examining and interviewing the child, and completing all legal paperwork and future court appearances.


The stepparent files an adoption request to start the adoption process. This request must include the biological parent to whom the stepparent is married. The stepparent and biological parent must revoke the other parent's rights or ask the court to proceed without their permission. Any effort should be made to locate and inform the absent parent of the request to revoke parental rights and obtain his or her consent.


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Duration of marriage.


While it is not mandatory, the California Department of Social Services recommends that both the stepparent and biological parent file an adoption petition at least one year after their marriage.

Investigation and a home visit. The Department of Social Services (DSS) needs a home visit and investigation as part of the adoption process in order to protect the best interests of the minor child. A DSS investigator will interview the child (depending on their age) and present their findings and recommendations to the court.

The biological parents' consent is required.


Both biological parents must consent to revoke the absent parent's rights before the stepparent can become the child's legal parent. A biological parent may wish to terminate their parental rights for a variety of reasons. For financial or emotional reasons, a parent may believe it is in the child's best interests. Even if you have consented to the adoption, you can still see and spend time with your child by drafting a post-adoption communication agreement. Children aged 12 and up must sign a consent form and consent to a stepparent adoption.


Parental rights are being terminated via a petition.


If the biological parent refuses to agree, you must file a motion to have parental rights revoked. You must show in the petition that the absent biological parent has not exercised their parental rights for a certain period of time, that they have emotionally or financially deserted the child, or that they are unfit to be a legal parent for a certain period of time.


The court will decide whether or not to terminate parental rights at a separate hearing. Abandonment, incarceration, failure to pay child maintenance, failure to have a meaningful relationship with the child, and the missing parent's whereabouts are among the grounds for termination.


Adoption can be challenged.


If you are a parent who does not want your child to be adopted by a stepparent, our prescreened Family Law Attorney in Los Angeles, CA will help you fight the petition to revoke parental rights by demonstrating that you should be the legal parent of your child. They have extensive experience challenging and ensuring that your parental rights are secured.


After the Adoption Process.


All parties have the same rights and responsibilities as birth parents until the adoption is finalized. Financial responsibilities, custody, child support obligations, succession, and personal responsibility for your child's intentional torts are among these rights. The birth parent would (in most cases) have no rights or responsibilities to the child until the adoption is finalized.


2. Adoption by a domestic partner


For same-sex couples, the adoption process may be fraught with difficulties. Fortunately, in California, same-sex couples may adopt domestic partnership rules. Stepparent adoption laws extend to intimate partner adoptions, which are less complicated than traditional adoptions since one of the parents is the biological parent. Same-sex couples who wish to adopt, however, must first register with the state as domestic partners.


Registration is a domestic relationship between two people of the same gender. To adopt as a same-sex couple, you must first register as domestic partners with the Secretary of State. As a result, under California state law, all licensed intimate partners have many of the same rights and obligations as other spouses.


In California, there is a presumption of domestic partnership


California law presumes that an infant born into a domestic union is the couple's legal child, regardless of a biological relationship. Even then, obtaining a court order naming the domestic partners as the child's legal parents is a smart idea. Domestic partnership law is still in flux, particularly at the federal level and in other states. The legal arrangement will be honored nationally and by other states as a result of this court decision in the context of a domestic partnership adoption.


The adoption procedure


The same-sex spouse of the child's parent adopts the child and forms a legal parent-child relationship in a domestic partnership adoption. It is less difficult and complex since it follows the steps of a stepparent adoption, and it can make certain aspects of the procedure simpler, such as shorter waiting times and less invasive investigation than is expected in second-parent adoptions (adopting when not legally married or in a registered domestic partnership).


The duration of a marital relationship


While it is not mandatory, courts prefer that all same-sex couples file an adoption petition at least one year after registering as domestic partners.


Having a meeting at home


The court orders that a social worker visits the minor child and both parents in order to protect the child's best interests. This brief meeting is mainly to ensure that all information provided is right, after which a recommendation will be sent to the court.


The consent of the other parent is required


You'll need the other biological parent's permission to become the child's legal parent. You must ask the court to revoke the parent's rights to the child if they refuse to agree and you wish to proceed with the adoption. In addition, the adoption must be approved by your domestic partner. If a child is 12 or older, he or she must give consent to be adopted.


Parental rights are being terminated via a petition


When a biological parent refuses to agree, a court petition is required. You must show that the absent biological parent has not exercised their parental rights for a certain period of time, that they have emotionally or financially neglected the child, or that they are incompetent to be a legal parent in your petition to terminate parental rights.


Following the filing of the appeal, the court will hold a hearing to determine if parental rights should be revoked. Abandonment, incarceration, failure to pay child maintenance, failure to have a meaningful relationship with the child, and the missing parent's whereabouts are among the grounds for termination.


Adoption and Contestation


If you are a parent who opposes the adoption, our prescreened California Attorneys will vigorously defend you in court by demonstrating that you should be the legal parent of your child.


Following the adoption


The new partnership is deemed permanent until the adoption is completed. You'll have the same legal responsibilities as a biological parent, and the other parent will usually relinquish all rights and responsibilities to the child. You will also be given a new birth certificate for your child.


3. Second-parent adoption


A non-biological or non-legal second-parent adoption (also known as a co-parent adoption) is when a child born to or legally adopted by one spouse is adopted by the other non-biological or non-legal second-parent (applies to heterosexual and same-sex partners). This is achieved with the legal parent's permission and without affecting the parent's rights and obligations. The child now has two legal parents of equal legal rights in terms of their relationship with the child as a result of the adoption.


The advantages of adopting a child from a second parent.


Adopting a child as a second parent grants the child some benefits, including financial assistance, health care, pension/retirement, social security, inheritance, and other important safeguards. If one of the parents dies or becomes incapacitated, the child's rights and obligations will be covered by the second parent, and the child will not become a ward of the state. Regardless of the partnership's relationship status, the adoptive parent would obtain custody and visitation rights.


In the best interests of the child.


The most crucial aspect of any adoption is that the court must determine that it is in the child's best interests, ensuring the child's well-being and safety. For example, suppose the child is in a life-threatening condition and has to make an emergency medical decision. In that case, the adoption of a second parent will potentially save the child's life because the second–parent will make medical decisions.


In Sharon S. v. Superior Court (recognizing second-parent adoptions), the California Supreme Court found that "second-parent adoptions provide the possibility of securing protection and benefits of two parents for some of California's most vulnerable children."


The steps to adopting a child from a second parent. Domestic partner adoptions in California are viewed the same as stepparent adoptions. The basic steps are as follows:


Consent to adoption.


The first partner must agree to the adoption before a second-parent adoption can continue. The first parent's parental rights to the infant would not be affected by the consent.

  • Petition for adoption by a second parent.

  • The adoption petition is filed by the second parent to start the legal process.

  • Adoption by a second parent is being investigated.

  • The child and domestic partners will consult with an investigator or social worker. The investigator will write a report and submit it to the court, along with suggestions.

Letters of recommendation


Obtaining letters of affirmation from relatives, colleagues, and coworkers attesting to the fact that you and your wife have a caring and safe home is a good idea. These letters of encouragement will lend your adoption petition credibility.


Hearing on adoption


Based on the evidence submitted by you and the social services investigator, a judge can approve or reject the petition for adoption at the hearing.


4. Independent adoptions


An individual adoption is one in which the birth parent(s) and adoptive parents make their own adoption arrangements without the involvement of a third party. To make plans for placement, the birth parents usually work directly with the prospective adoptive parents. In certain cases, the parties are friends or family, and the placement is made based on the prospective adopting parents' relationship or experience.


Complications may arise in your attempts to reunite your family through adoption, just as they do in any legal action. Our dedicated, prescreened Family Lawyers will be assisting you and your family in developing adoption choices and setting specific goals for the steps involved.


The procedure: In California, an Adoption Service Provider (ASP) is enlisted to inform the birth parent(s) of their legal rights. The ASP can assist the birth parent(s) in signing consent forms by providing advice and assistance. The adoptive parents will consult with a Los Angeles Family Lawyer to make the adoption process go more smoothly in the courts.


The infant will be put in the adoptive parent's home after the birth parent(s) agree to the adoption. The adoption request would then be filed by the solicitor. Both parties will collaborate with the appointed Social Worker to conclude the investigation and appear in court as required to finalize the adoption.


Adoption: Independent vs. Agency


With the assistance of a Family Law Attorney, independent adoptions are direct adoptions between the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s). The birth parent(s) relinquish their parental rights to an agency, which then searches for adoptive parents. There are advantages and disadvantages to each form of adoption.

  • A Family Lawyer typically manages independent adoptions. Both the birth parents and the adoptive parents are aware of each other's identities in these forms of adoptions. With the assistance of a Los Angeles Family Law Attorney, the process is handled jointly between the birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s).

  • Adoptions by private or public entities approved by the state of California are possible. Private adoption agencies frequently provide the same level of transparency between biological and adoptive parents. However, due to the biological parents' voluntary or court-ordered surrender of the infant, public authorities may be unable to provide much knowledge of this kind.

Before the adoption is sent to the court for finalization, the agency usually conducts extensive home studies of the prospective parents and a six-month supervised placement period.


What is Adult Adoption?


Adult adoption is a legal procedure in California that allows two people who are not related to each other to form a legal partnership as parent and adult child.


Where a serious "unofficial" parent-child relationship already exists, such as in the case of a stepparent or other entity who has provided a parental position in the young adult's life, adults often pursue adult adoption to achieve a "legal relationship" of parent and child. Adult adoption may help with some of the more difficult aspects of estate planning.

All parties sign a formal adoption agreement and file a petition with the court in an adult adoption. If either the adopter or the adoptee is married, their spouse's consent is also required.

There is no need for a home study of adult adoption, and the biological parents of the adoptee are not required to consent. The court will inquire about the justification or intent for pursuing an adult adoption, which your California Attorney will include in your pleadings to the court.


When opposed to the adoption of a minor, adult adoptions can be completed very quickly.


What is involved in a Contested Adoption?


The circumstances surrounding a "contested adoption" differ greatly, and each case is examined individually. A disputed adoption situation will occur when the birth father refuses to consent or revoke his parental rights, as in the case of stepparent adoption. In this case, the matter will be set for a further hearing process/trial to take legal proceedings to terminate the parental rights.


A Los Angeles Family lawyer will often hammer out a compromise between the parties through professional mediation, and a settlement is reached before going through the full trial process. Our Family Lawyers have handled cases involving the termination of a birth parent's or parent's parental rights, as well as the representation of a child or guardian.


Adoption Set-Aside


Adoption set aside in California typically refers to a temporary suspension of the adoption for very particular and restricted purposes. Typically, the adoption set aside requires a private or public adoption by an organization and is limited to very particular circumstances. To decide the best approach, an extended consultation with the California Family Law Attorney is expected, as well as a review of all documents relating to the infant.


What is Foster Adoption?


Foster adoption typically includes a child who is in the custody, care, and control of a public social services organization, and the children are county or state dependents. The child is normally cared for by the foster/adoptive parent. At the same time, the agency/court provides treatment to the biological parent or parents as mandated by statute. If the child is unable to return to the biological parents within the specified time period, the agency seeks termination of the biological parent's parental rights. The organization makes the permanent determination for actual adoptive placement with the foster/adoptive parent(s) and advises them that they should obtain the help of a Family Law Attorneys in Los Angeles for the filing and finalization of the adoption of the dependent children until the child is freed for adoption.


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Adoption petitions are normally submitted and finalized in the county where the child was made a ward in California. When families live in different parts of California, the children may be adopted in the county where they were born. Many of the social service providers in other California counties have worked with us before. Consider one of our prescreened California Lawyers in your California Attorney Search.


What exactly is SIJS (Special Immigrant Juvenile Status)?


A child may be qualified for US citizenship under some circumstances by gaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 USC 1101(a)(27) (J).


Is this a Process that Takes Place in Immigration Court?


Certain conclusions must be made by a state parental, probate, or dependency court in order to apply for this Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. These state courts do not have the authority to issue deportation orders. State courts must make certain preliminary findings before a minor can file an application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.


Adoptions of Children from Other Countries


International adoption is a great choice for couples who want to grow their family but don't want to wait for an American adoption agency to finish the process. International adoptions have recently been in the press, and their popularity has risen in recent years.

  • One of the most important benefits of international adoption is that it is completed before the child leaves the country. The baby or child is yours once he or she has left the country. International adoptions are completed in the country of origin, eliminating most of the paperwork that would otherwise be required in the United States.

  • Age, race, and gender are all factors to consider in any adoption. Another factor to consider is the expense of traveling to your new family member's country of origin. Although it should be noted that children are significantly more costly than airlines, this may not be the most important factor to consider. The health status of the child must also be taken into account.

Although many countries allow for a very short or no waiting period before finalizing an adoption, others have very stringent rules on how long a couple must wait. Other countries have strict guidelines for who is eligible to adopt a child from their country. Some countries are much more accepting of foreign nationals adopting their children.


What is the Interstate Compact on Child Placement (ICPC)?


The Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC) is a legal agreement between all states that govern the adoption of children between states. Every state's ICPC office must approve the placement and arrangement before a child can be brought across state lines for adoption. The ICPC offices will then oversee the adoption placement before it is finalized or dismissed. This method can be complicated, and it necessitates a thorough examination of each state's unique specifications as well as the ICPC's.


Parental Rights Termination


Termination of parental rights would be handled by Family Court rather than Juvenile Dependency Court. The court does not grant termination of parental rights in response to an appeal or by mutual consent of the parents seeking to resolve support or visitation conflicts.


Termination of parental rights by court order is a long-term decision that permanently breaks the parent-child relationship in the best interests and well-being of the child. In the absence of parental unfitness, public policy assumes that "best interests" means touch, friendship, and support from both parents.


Parental rights can be terminated by the court under the following circumstances:

  • For the purpose of adoption, the birth parent(s) willingly relinquish their rights to their child to an adoption agency or put the child in an independent adoption situation. Suppose the birth parents are not married and the mother wishes to position her child for adoption. In that case, the adoption counselor must conduct a comprehensive review of the circumstances and identify the possible birth mother or father before recommending a course of action. A birth father (whether alleged or presumed) has the option of freely waiving all rights to the child or consenting.

  • There is a pending independent or stepparent adoption since an alleged father neglected to support the birth mother and child emotionally and financially during the pregnancy and afterward.

  • For the past six months, a suspected parent(s) has neglected to connect with or help the child, leaving the child in the custody of a non-parent, and an independent adoption is pending.

  • For the past year, a presumed parent has neglected to connect with or support the infant, leaving the child in the custody of the other parent, and a stepparent adoption is pending.

  • When a legal guardian wishes to adopt a child and has had legal guardianship of the child for at least two years, the court decides that it is in the child's best interest for the guardian to adopt the child, taking into account the essence and scope of the child's relationship with the birth parent, the guardian, any siblings, and any other considerations relating to the child's best interests.

  • When a minor aged at least 14 years old petitions the court for emancipation and satisfies the conditions, receives written approval or permission from the parents, and the court determines that granting the petition will not be contrary to the minor's best interests, emancipation is granted.


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