San Fernando Valley Adoption Lawyers
Assisting Families throughout Southern California
Adopting a child is one of the most wonderful and selfless things a person can do. You will change that child's life forever when you adopt, giving him or her a safe place to grow up and be loved. Unfortunately, adoption is also a legal process that must be addressed properly to give you the greatest opportunity of success. It can be difficult to be approved in the first place and there are often specific qualifications that will need to be met in order to be considered.
To discuss your specific family situation and learn how Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law can help you, call (818) 839-2533.
About Adoption in California
Adoption is a legal process wherein a person assumes legal custody of another's child. The person or couple looking to adopt will assume full legal responsibility for the child and will raise him or her from that point on. The biological parents would surrender their rights as parents and would also no longer be responsible for the child. In the eyes of the law, the adoptive parents would now be the legal parents of the child and would make all decisions about the child's education, religion, medical care, and more.
Adoption is a valuable part of our legal system, giving children in need the opportunity to be taken into loving homes where they will be taken care of. If you or your family is interested in adopting a child into your home, talk to an adoption lawyer at our San Fernando Valley office! There are many different aspects to the adoption process that you may be unaware of, and being informed before choosing to adopt will be the best decision. Whether your new spouse is adopting your biological child or you are welcoming a new child into your family from another area, our law firm can help you!
There are many ways that an individual, a domestic partnership, or a married couple may adopt a child. As you begin to look at your options and determine what to do, an adoption attorney can assist you in making the right decision for you and your family. Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law is here to help. We offer a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer, giving you the opportunity to ask a legal professional your questions and have your specific concerns addressed.
Some of our areas of practice in regards to adoption include:
- Stepparent or Kinship Adoption - Adopting a relative or your stepchild
- Domestic Adoption - Adopting a child within the United States
- International Adoption - Adopting a child from another country
- Foster Adoption - Adopting a child from the foster care system in the U.S.
- Grandparent Adoption – Adopting a grandchild when parents are unable or unwilling to care for them
- Adult Adoption – Adopting a person who is over 18 years of age
- Representation for Birth Parents or Adoptive Parents
You can go through an adoption agency or can undergo a private adoption with the birth parent or parents.
Steps to File an Adoption in California
Before your new life with an adopted child begins, you need to know that the legal process can seem endless. Oftentimes, the amount of forms, paperwork, and court hearings can be tedious even to the most passionate adoptive parent. Having an experienced San Fernando Valley adoption attorney by your side can help you navigate the complex court system and will help the process go much smoother.
When a parent who is not the biological or birth parent of a child wants to establish a legal parent-child relationship, that parent can begin the legal process of adoption. Though adoption procedures are complex and often take a lot of time and effort to see through, adoption can be one of the most rewarding processes a person can accomplish, and one of the greatest gifts a person can give.
One of the first steps to take when you are considering an adoption is to consult an experienced lawyer. At Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law, we have over 30 years of experience and are happy to assist you as you begin these next steps of your life.
From there, we can help guide you along the following steps:
- Consenting to Adoption: The birth parent or parents of the child must give their consent to adoption. With a stepparent adoption, this is usually fairly easy in regards to the spouse of the step-parent seeking to adopt the child. The other birth parent, usually the non-custodial parent, may object and this matter will need to be addressed immediately. In some cases the adoption may go through even if the non-custodial parent objects. However, this will be addresses on a case-by-case basis and as such it is important to talk to an attorney about this.
- Contacting the Court: It is important to contact the court that handles adoptions in your county. By contacting the court you can find out what legal forms are needed, whether you must have legal representation, and where you can find the necessary forms.
- Filling out and Submitting Legal Forms: You will need to fill out all legal forms for adoption and submit them with the court clerk. It is usually helpful if your lawyer does this step for you, as they must be properly filled out and filed. Papers must also be served to the biological or birth parents.
- Notification of Court Date: The court will notify you or your attorney by mail of your court hearing concerning the adoption.
- Hearing: At the hearing, the court will question both parties involved in the adoption. Your attorney can assist you in preparing for this. The judge will also set a date for the finalization of the adoption.
- Finalizing the Adoption: An adoption certificate is issued at the court hearing, finalizing the adoption.
- Applying for Amended Birth Certificates: The final step will be to apply for amended birth certificates.
Once an adoption is finalized, the adoptive parents maintain all legal responsibilities to the child, including custody rights and guardianship. Your decision to adopt not only means you have decided to take on this process, but it also means you have decided to impact a child's life by providing guardianship.
Stepparent Adoptions in the San Fernando Valley
Stepparent adoptions are common, but it does not take away from the true heartfelt value of the action. Stepping in as a new parent for a child could have a tremendous impact on that child's life, and has the potential to allow the child to grow and be loved in an environment they may never had the joy of experiencing.
Stepparent adoptions happen when one biological parent retains parental rights while the relationship with the other biological parent is severed, which results in the loss of all rights or responsibilities for the child. In effect, the stepparent who is adopting the child then assumes the role as the new parent and acquires the rights and responsibilities. A stepparent adoption is permanent and cannot be nullified or terminated, even if the parents choose to divorce or go through a legal separation.
About Stepparent Adoptions in California
California law recognizes spouses and domestic partners in stepparent adoptions. In these cases, the birth parent still remains as the child's legal parent, typically making the process easier. However, it is important to remember that any adoption is still a legal process and therefore must be handled with care to ensure it is done efficiently and effectively. You can also avoid future issues by making sure the adoption is legally sound.
Stepparent adoptions may have their own complexities when issues involving the non-custodial parent arise. Typically, it is the spouse of the custodial parent who will wish to seek to adopt the child. While the custodial parent may give his or her consent, the non-custodial parent may object. Depending on your particular case, there may be steps your attorney can take to ensure your adoption is successful even without the non-custodial parent's consent. However, this will vary depending upon the circumstances.
Requirements for Stepparent Adoption
If you are a stepparent looking to adopt a child, you should first be aware of the basic legal requirements needed to become an adoptive parent. Before a stepparent adoption can be finalized or recognized in court, the following must be met:
- Adopting parents must be legally married or in a legal domestic partnership
- Adopting parent must be at least 18 years old, and at least 10 years older than the adopted child
- The biological parent and the adopting parent's spouse or partner must consent to the adoption
- If the child is over 12 years old, the child must consent to the adoption
If you do not fit one of the requirements in the above list, do not be dismayed. It is possible to move forward with an adoption even if some requirements are not met. Consult an experienced San Fernando Valley adoption lawyer.
Frequently Asked Question
What is a stepparent adoption?
A stepparent adoption refers to a situation where the new spouse of a birth parent wishes to adopt their child. California law also allows for domestic partners to apply for stepparent adoptions. Instead of terminating the rights of the birth parent, a stepparent adoption simply establishes new rights for the new, adoptive parent.
Is the stepparent adoption process complicated?
Because it is legal in nature, stepparent adoption can easily become complicated. Generally speaking, however, it is usually more straightforward than other forms of adoption because the birth parent's rights are not terminated.
What sort of issues may arise?
One of the main issues which may arise in a stepparent adoption concerns the consent of both birth parents. If your spouse divorced the child's birth parent and was granted custody, it is still possible the other birth parent will not wish to give consent for the adoption. This can present a unique problem that should be addressed immediately. If there has not been support and/or communication for a specific period of time, that may constitute consent though legal process (service and opportunity to be heard) need to be followed nonetheless.
What are the benefits of a stepparent adoption?
Adopting your stepchild is a selfless act which brings your family closer together. You may wish to seek a stepparent adoption so you can truly be the child's parent in the eyes of the law. You will also have rights in regards to custody and making decisions about the child's medical needs, education and more.
For birth parents, your spouse will be granted both rights and responsibility as a parent. Should anything happen to you, you can be certain that your child is where you want him or her to be. A stepparent adoption is often just the legal seal that finalizes all the parenting your spouse has done anyway and confirms your spouse's desire to truly be your child's father or mother. This adoption can bring your family even closer together, emotionally and in the eyes of the law.
What is "consent to adoption"?
Because the rights of the birth parents are not terminated in a stepparent adoption, the birth parent or parents must give their consent. In giving their consent, the birth parents are allowing for the stepparent to adopt the child and gain the legal rights and responsibilities as a parent.
What happens if I consent, but my child's other birth parent does not?
If your spouse is the one seeking to adopt your child, you may be happy about the idea. However, your ex may not wish to give his or her consent. If you are the custodial parent, there may be ways around this, wherein your spouse can still adopt your child. It is important to talk to an adoption attorney about your unique situation in this regard in order to determine what rights you have and what you can do to go through with the adoption even without the other birth parent's consent.
Is a stepparent adoption more complicated than other types of adoption?
Usually a stepparent adoption is actually simpler than other forms of adoption. This is due to the fact that the birth parents' rights do not need to be terminated.
Will my rights as the birth parent be terminated?
No. You will still retain your rights as a birth parent, even if your spouse successfully adopts your child.
Adoption Lawyers Serving All of Southern California
Any adoption may be complex. Whether you are a stepparent looking to adopt your spouse's child, are a birth parent, or are simply a person who wishes to adopt a child, you will need to thoroughly explore your options and your rights in this regard. Whether you are married or unmarried, the fact that you are considering adoption is a wonderful thing. Don't get discouraged by the legal complexities that you may face. With the right lawyer to look out for your legal rights and guide you through the adoption process, you have the opportunity to make your dream come true and change the life of a child at the same time. An attorney can help you make a well-informed decision about adoption. After all, this is a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life.
Contact a San Fernando Valley adoption attorney at Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law today for a free consultation.