Adoption is a process wherein legal guardianship of a child is transferred from the child’s biological parent(s) to its new, adoptive parents. By doing so, the adoptive parents become legally responsible for the care of the child (providing it with shelter, food, education, et cetera). For all intents and purposes, the new adoptive parent(s) step into the shoes of the biological parents.
In California, there are generally five different kinds of adoptions: (Writer’s note: Have your guy format this table in a visually pleasant manner, maybe putting the first four in a lower font and somehow highlighting the fifth, as that is the kind you work on.)
- Agency Adoptions: The kind most are familiar with, this involves an adoption agency acting as an intermediary between a birth parent who has “relinquished” their legal rights to the child or had them removed at the behest of the court, and the adoptive parent.
- Inter-Country Adoptions: A form of international adoption which gives the child a special immigration visa
- Adult Adoptions: Two adults decide to adopt a child
- Independent Adoptions: With the assistance of a lawyer, the biological parents of a child directly place them into the home of adoptive parents whom they’ve vetted.
- Step-parent/Domestic Partner Adoptions: Step-parents may decide to adopt the children of their spouse. It is necessary for the couple to be legally married or registered as domestic partners.
Here at Family Law Fresno we primarily handle step-parent adoptions.
A lawyer is often a necessity in these sorts of adoptions, as adoption law is often very complicated and even assuming all parties are in agreement, simple oversights in the bureaucratic process can result in immense difficulties for all involved, sometimes postponing the process for months. Likewise, it is very important to have all of your documents in order when you begin this process.
In these sorts of adoptions, the step-parent decides to assume all legal responsibility for the child of their spouse. Any legal rights and responsibilities the other biological parent has in regards to the child are terminated and transferred to the step-parent. In cases where the child involved is twelve or older, they must also consent to the adoption. In California, this transfer is permanent; once it has gone through, it cannot be nullified, revoked, taken back, or otherwise undone. Even in the case of divorce, the step-parent retains the legal rights and responsibilities for the child. There are very few exceptions to this rule, all of them extreme legal circumstances such as fraud, disability/mental illness discovered within five years.
Should the couple be married/in a domestic partnership at the time the child was born, then they will only need to do a stepparent adoption to confirm parentage, which avoids most of the difficulties that would be present otherwise.
At times, the biological parent may refuse to willingly relinquish their rights to the child, for any number of reasons. In this case, the conflict must be taken to court to determine whether the adoption will go through—the judge can force the biological parent to involuntarily sign away their rights. It is important to note that in California, if the biological parent has neglected to provide for the child (through child support) or visit them for the space of a year, their rights will usually be terminated.
Such cases aside, in the circumstances of unwillingness by the non-custodial parent to relinquish their rights to the child, the court will make a decision based upon the best interest of the child. (Writer’s note: Maybe you should add a parenthetical statement delineating some of the factors involved in making this decision, so that people can know it ahead of time)These legal battles can be incredibly complicated, stressful, and damaging, and having a skilled, experienced lawyer at your back can make all the difference.
At the Law Offices of Glenn R. Wilson (FamilyLawFresno.com) we are experienced in handling Step Parent Adoption matters and can provide aggressive legal assistance in your adoption matter.
By Connor Douglas Johnson