There are many reasons why families choose to adopt a child. Maybe they have struggled with infertility, cannot have more children for health reasons, or want to help a certain child in another country. In some cases, a family member can no longer care for their child, or a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild. No matter the reasons for wanting to adopt, the process is generally the same within adoption types based on the relationship between the adopting parent and the child. It’s a crucial process, and understanding what to expect can help you prepare for the journey ahead.
The adoption process can vary somewhat depending on the presiding court and your specific circumstances. In addition, the process can be risky and sometimes complex. A lawyer can help ensure that anything you pursue is legitimate. They can help you complete necessary paperwork, understand home visits, and all other steps in the process.
Finding the child you want to adopt is often done by connecting with an agency that can put you in touch with couples wishing to make an adoption plan for their biological child. However, it can also be done through fostering, through people you know, or even relatives. One very common form of adoption is when a stepparent legally adopts the biological child(ren) of their spouse. Once you know the child you want to adopt, the rest of the steps will become clearer.
You, the adoption agency, or your Monterey County adoption lawyer on your behalf will need to file an adoption petition with the local family court. This document initiates the legal aspect of the adoption. With the petition, parents make a legal request to adopt a specific child. The petition will likely require the following information and documentation:
Adoption agencies and the California Department of Social Services (DSS) each have a strong need to ensure that adoptive parents are ready and able to care for the child they wish to adopt. To do this, the adoptive parents will be required to undergo an investigation and submit several documents to verify things like their health and mental stability, income, and possible childcare arrangements. The investigation results in a report submitted by a social worker stating if the couple is recommended for adoption or not. Most reports do recommend that the adoption moves forward, but if it does not, you may need to consult with a lawyer on how to proceed.
For stepparent adoptions, the parent and stepparent making the request will need to get the other birth parent’s consent for the adoption. If the other parent refuses to give consent, you may need to request termination of parental rights through the court. This process can be complicated, and consulting with an attorney is highly recommended.
In most other adoption circumstances, the child’s birth parent(s) will need to terminate (or end) their legal rights as parents. If you’re working with an adoption agency or DSS, the parent(s) rights may have been terminated by choice or by a court order before the child was placed with your family. However, in independent or private adoptions, where no agency or government service is involved, the adoptive parents will need to sign an Independent Adoption Placement Agreement, which automatically becomes legal consent for the adoption after 30 days. When the final adoption decree is issued, the birth parent’s legal rights are terminated.
In independent adoptions, California also may allow for the birth parents to keep certain parental rights, as long as the birth parents and adoptive parents agree to the arrangement.
Depending on the circumstances, additional investigation may be needed before the adoption is finalized. For example, independent adoptions often require a home study process, in which a social worker makes at least two visits to the adoptive parents’ home. In international adoptions, one or more post-placement visits are required by the international adoption agency. If you’re working with an agency, they will be able to explain this process to you. For independent or stepparent adoptions, it can be helpful to seek legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.
Adoptions are typically finalized around six months to one year after the family has custody of the child. A final adoption hearing is held, which usually takes about 30 to 60 minutes. The hearing establishes the legality of the new family unit. It confirms that the parents are willing and capable of providing for the new child. Some courts allow the adoptive parents and child to take a photo with the judge to mark the official beginning of their new family.
If you have questions about the adoption process or are ready to get started, reach out to an experienced Monterey County adoption lawyer at Miranda, Magden & Miranda, LLP today. Schedule an adoption consultation by contacting us to learn more.
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