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Family Law: How to Prepare for a Step-Parent Adoption in the State of California 

Adoption is a life-altering experience that can help build families as well as allow expectant parents make a loving choice for their child. Adoption is also a legal process that involves complex California laws. The legal process of adoption plays an important role in the entire experience.

If you or someone you know is considering adopting a step-child, it is important to understand the state laws that could affect the process. Step-Parent Adoption laws can play a vital role in each and every adoption experience. Those contemplating adoption should seek the advice and support of an attorney that has experience in dealing with step-parent adoptions in the County Superior Courts. An attorney with the right experience has the potential to facilitate the entire experience while saving time and head-ache.

Step-Parent Adoption Overview

In California, the step-parent adoptions are processed through the local County Superior Courts, in the family law division. For the most part, the adoption process in either San Bernardino or Riverside Counties will mirror the process in the other 56 counties in California. Each County will have similar specific requirements, but the timelines can vary depending on outside factors.

A step-parent is petitioning to become the parent with one of the minor’s natural parents is known and processed as a step-parent adoption. This process is unique as the minor child already has a parental relationship in place by at least one parent. The step-parent is looking for a court order to establish their relationship as the other parent of the minor child. In this process, if the parent whose rights are to be replaced, have not been terminated, the step-parent adoption process will address that. Essentially, parental rights are terminated to make way for the step-parent to have those rights ordered upon them.

Important California Regulations to Consider

The following are some of the most important factors to consider when going through a step-parent adoption process.

Understand how a person can meet the basic requirements under California law.

Every state will have its own specific rules and regulations regarding adoption eligibility. In the State of California, adults seeking to adopt should be a minimum of 10 years older than the minor they are seeking to adopt. The exception is with the step-parent adoption. In this process, the age requirement is not applied so as long as the minor’s custodial parent and the step-parent are married the requirement is not held.

Every step-parent seeking to adopt will have complete a home study investigation that includes a personal criminal background check and interview with a State official before being approved to adopt. This is completed by the State of California, not the court, and once completed the final recommendation is sent to the court for the Judge to use to either make an approval or denial of the adoption request. As mentioned above, each County timeline will vary on the step-parent adoption and it is typically for this investigation. Each County has a different back-log of these investigations to do and larger Counties may take significantly longer to complete this requirement.   

The basics of a home study in the State of California.

It is important to understand what is expected in a home study in the state. During an adoption home study, the following factors may be required:

  • Undergoing a fingerprint background check,
  • The completion of a physical analysis,
  • Enrolling in adoption training courses,
  • A completion of interviews held by appropriate social workers, and
  • The completion of an in-home investigation executed by an appropriate social worker. 

The Bottom Line

The entire step-parent adoption process in the State of California can be a long and complex procedure. It is important to seek the legal advice of a proficient attorney that has experience in dealing with the adoption process. A skilled attorney can help to ensure that the process is handled effortlessly and efficiently, which can ultimately expedite the entire process. Adoptions should always be a wonderful memory; seek the legal support of an attorney who can help bring your family together.

The attorneys at Milligan, Bewick, Levine & Knox, LLP., have extensive experience in dealing with adoptions in the State of California. They are dedicated to guiding hopeful parents through the adoption process.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.