While the majority of adoptions that occur in the United States involve a couple adopting a child as their own, stepparent adoption is an increasingly popular form of adoption.  After a couple with children from a previous relationship marry, the non-biological parent of that child may feel increasingly interested in adopting that child as his or her own.

Stepparent adoption can also act to formalize the familial bonds that develop after remarriage, and give a child the comfort of knowing that he or she is part of a new secure family structure. However, the path to stepparent adoption is not easy and requires several key steps to occur.

Proving Your Own Fitness to Parent in Rancho Cucamonga

The first step in the stepparent adoption process is convincing state authorities that you are qualified to be the legal guardian of your stepchild. This requires first filing for adoption with the California courts. In this filing, you will be required to provide information about yourself, the child, and your relationship with each other.

After receiving the adoption request, the California courts will coordinate with California social services to investigate whether you would be an appropriate legal guardian for the child. While public policy in California promotes adoption, the state must be sure that children are being placed into a safe home environment. This means that you and your stepchild will likely be interviewed to help determine if adoption is appropriate.

Terminating the Parental Rights of Another

Becoming a legal guardian as a stepparent necessarily means that the parental rights of one of the child’s biological parents must also be terminated, assuming both parents are still living. Children cannot have more than two parents at one time.  

Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary. Voluntary means that the other biological parent agrees, in writing, to give up his or her parental rights. This may happen when the parent is unable or uninterested in providing for the child.

Where the other parent will not voluntarily terminate rights, the stepparent will have to go through termination proceedings. These proceedings can be long, difficult, and require a showing that the biological parent is unfit to be a parent – whether because of abandonment, neglect, or other reasons.

The Final Hearing

After the investigation is completed and any necessary steps are taken to terminate the rights of a biological parent, the final step in the stepparent adoption process is to conduct a hearing before a California judge. The judge will determine whether stepparent adoption seems to be in the best interest of the child. If so, the judge will finalize the adoption and confirm the new family relationship.

California Attorneys Formalizing Your Parental Relationship

Stepparent adoption is frequently the last step in the long process of developing a loving and safe relationship with your stepchild. The emotional bond between a stepparent and stepchild may be complete long before the adoption process is finished.

At CKB Vienna, LLP, our family law attorneys frequently work with stepparents to take the important step of becoming a legal guardian to their stepchild. We help you to complete the legal forms that merely reflect the relationship that has already been formed. For more information, contact us online or at (909) 980-1040.