Stepparent Adoption Attorney
As a stepparent or domestic partner, you form a special relationship with your partner’s child. Stepfathers and stepmothers all over the country have a crucially important role in their stepchildren’s lives, including getting the children to and from school, taking them to sports practice, helping them with their homework, cooking meals, and providing financial support. Many children depend on the love and support of stepparents, who are there for the child in a way that the other biological parent can not be or will not be.
When one makes the commitment to remarry after a divorce or enter into a domestic partnership, it represents a major change in the family dynamic. The new stepfather or stepmother moves in with the children and begins to (or continues to) make decisions about the child’s activities, discipline, and overall upbringing. But as a stepparent, despite having active involvement in the child’s life, you do not have the full legal rights and responsibilities of a parent. A stepparent adoption allows you to create a legal parent-child relationship between you and your stepchild.
If you are interested in pursuing a stepparent adoption, an experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process. While stepparent adoptions are typically easier than agency or independent adoptions, the process is by no means simple. The Law Offices of Soheila Azizi and Associates, P.C. can help navigate the tricky waters of obtaining consent from the other parent, ensure the right documents are filed at the right time, and increase your chances of a successful adoption.
The Law Offices of Soheila Azizi and Associates, P.C. is proud to be your law firm for life. Call (909) 484-9992 or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.
Obtaining Consent From the Other Parent
The California Family Code states that a stepparent cannot adopt his or her steppchild without the consent of the other biological parent.
Obtaining consent can be a difficult undertaking, depending on your family situation. Consenting to a stepparent adoption means giving up any and all parental rights, including the right to make major decisions about the child’s life (e.g. schooling and medical care) and the right to visit the child. Consenting to a stepparent adoption also means termination of child support, if there was any. In the best-case scenario, the non-custodial biological parent will realize that a stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interest and give consent. However, it is not always that easy.
If the non-custodial parent refuses to give consent, there are other legal options to pursue. Depending on how much contact and support the child gets from the non-custodial parent, you can seek to terminate his or her parental rights. The options for termination of parental rights are:
- Willful failure to support: If the non-custodial parent has failed to support the child AND failed to communicate with the child for at least one year, you could argue that he or she willfully failed to support the child. If the absent parent is unable to show a good reason for the lack of support and communication, the court can waive the requirement of consent and allow the adoption to proceed.
- Abandonment: If the non-custodial parent has failed to either support the child OR communicate with the child for at least one year, you could argue that the absent parent has effectively abandoned the child. However, these circumstances are less open-and-shut than willful failure to support. In order to prove abandonment, the state probation department must investigate the child’s relationship with his or her biological parents. The probation worker will often meet with the custodial, biological parent and the child to learn how much support the other parent has given, what the parent’s relationship is like with the child, and determine whether or not the non-custodial parent’s actions constitute abandonment. The court will take the probation worker’s report and the parents’ testimony into account to decide whether or not parental rights should be terminated.
- Alleged father: If the absent parent is male, in some circumstances, you can argue he is not the “presumed father” in the eyes of the law. A man is the presumed father if he is married to the child’s mother at the time of birth, as well as if he marries her after the birth and is named on the birth certificate. However, if the parents were never married, there is no legal presumed father. In these cases, it is much easier to terminate parental rights.
- Unfit parent: If you can prove that the other biological parent is not fit to raise a child, his or her parental rights could be terminated. A parent can be determined unfit if they are neglectful, abusive, mentally ill, incarcerated, or suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. If one party is unfit for parenting, sole custody will be awarded to the fit parent. In these cases, consent of the absent parent is not required and the adoption can proceed.
It is important to note that each and every family situation is different. The court takes a number of factors into account when considering termination of parental rights, but the child’s well-being is always the number one priority.
The Stepparent Adoption Process
Stepparent adoptions are generally easier to navigate than traditional agency adoptions or independent adoptions because one biological parent is still involved. Home visits, which are required for other adoptions, are not required by the California Family Code for stepparent adoptions; instead, the court assumes the child has a safe and stable living arrangement because the biological parent is still present.
When starting the adoption process, an experienced family law attorney can be invaluable. A qualified lawyer can obtain the forms you need to file, help you file them in the correct place, contact the other biological parent, and work to obtain consent for the adoption. After the forms have been filed and consent issues have been dealt with, there will be a final adoption hearing at which the court will decide whether or not to approve the adoption. A lawyer with extensive family law experience will know how to navigate the process, present the appropriate evidence, and give you the best chance of a successful hearing.
Once the adoption is approved and finalized, parental rights and responsibilities are permanently transferred to the stepparent. Under California law, the adoption cannot be nullified or revoked except in the case of fraud, mental illness, legal defect, or disability (discovered within five years of the adoption).
Contact the Law Offices of Soheila Azizi and Associates
If you are a stepparent or domestic partner interested in adopting your significant other’s child, contact The Law Offices of Soheila Azizi and Associates, P.C. No matter your family situation, our skilled family law attorneys can help you determine the best course of action throughout the adoption process. With more than 18 years’ worth of experience in litigation and dispute resolution, Soheila Azizi has the expertise to handle your adoption matter. As an expert in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, Ms. Azizi can be a valuable asset for negotiating and obtaining consent from the other biological parent.
Call (909) 484-9992 or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your adoption case today. We are proud to be your law firm for life.