Frequently Asked Questions about Stepparent Adoption

1) I want to adopt my stepchild, but the other biological parent has passed away. Will I still be able to adopt my stepchild?

It is likely. Although both biological parents must consent to the step-parent adoption, if one of the parents is deceased, then you will only be required to obtain consent from the living parent. However, after obtaining consent from the living parent, you will still have to prove to the court that the step-parent adoption is in the best interest of your step-child.
You should let the court know in your petition that one of the biological parents is deceased, and provide some type of proof, such as a death certificate. If you do not let the court know, they will presume that the other biological parent is still living and has not given consent. This could result in your request being denied, forcing you to start the process over.

2) I do not know where the other biological parent of my stepchild lives. Do I still have to serve the petition and obtain consent?

This depends on how difficult it is for you to find the other biological parent. A court will expect you to make a reasonable effort to find the biological parent. The courts do not want to deprive anyone of their rights without giving them a chance to be heard. By not serving the petition on the other biological parent, you are not allowing them an opportunity to consent or object.

If you do not know where the other biological parent lives, you can try the following to find them:

a) If you have the last known address of the biological parent, send a certified letter to this address;
b) If you know any friends or family members of the other biological parent, call them to try to find out where he or she lives;
c) Perform an internet search for the other parent;
d) Hire a private investigator to search for the other parent; OR
e) Contact a county official in the county where you believe the other parent is residing to see if they have any information on the other parent.

If you are unable to locate the other biological parent of your stepchild after a diligent search, you will have to give Notice by Publication. Notice by Publication means that you will have to “publish” your summons in a local newspaper where the other biological parent was last known to reside. If at any time during the publication you discover the whereabouts of the other biological parent, you should personally serve him or her with the summons and petition.

It is important to note that the family law court will expect you to make a reasonable effort to find and serve the other biological parent. Without proper service, your petition could be denied. Thus, it is imperative that you hire an experienced step-parent adoption attorney to assist you in your step-parent adoption case so that your request is not denied for procedural reasons.

3) How long will the step-parent adoption process take?

The time required to complete a step-parent adoption case will vary depending on the details of your case, as well as the availability of court hearings in your local courthouse. An uncontested step-parent adoption where everyone agrees to the terms and signs documents in a timely fashion can take as little as a few months. However, if your step-parent adoption case is contested and you have to terminate the parental rights of the other biological parent, the process will take considerably longer.

4) I am in a same-sex relationship. Will I be able to adopt my partner’s child?

It depends. Under California Family Code Section 9000, someone who is registered as a domestic partner may adopt the biological child of their partner. You must be registered as domestic partners in order to use the step-parent adoption process. Under California Family Code Section 297.5, a registered domestic partnership is a legal relationship that is available to same-sex couples, and some opposite-sex couples, which afford the couple the “same rights, protections and benefits, and subjects them to the same responsibilities, duties, and obligations, under the law, as are granted to and imposed on” married couples. Thus, a domestic partnership is the functional equivalent of a marriage under California law.

The California legislature has not extended step-parent adoption rights to people who are not parties to a marriage or domestic partnership. Thus, if you are in a same-sex relationship you will not be able to adopt your partner’s child unless you have a registered domestic partnership.

5) Where can I find an experienced step-parent adoption attorney in Orange County?

Step-parent adoption cases can be vey complex. You should not attempt to adopt your stepchild without the assistance of a skilled family law attorney. The skilled step-parent adoption attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully helping client obtain a step-parent adoption.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Victorville, West Covina, Sherman Oaks, Torrance and Ventura, there is a Wallin & Klarich attorney available wherever you happen to live. Call us today at (888) 749-7428. We will be there when you call.

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