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What to know if you are thinking of adopting your stepchild

Divorce and remarriage are very common events in the lives of people all across California. This means that it is not unusual for a child to grow up with both biological parents and stepparents.

In fact, according to statistics from the U.S Bureau of Census, roughly 1,300 stepfamilies form every day in the country. With this in mind, we want to take this opportunity to answer a few common questions people have with regard to adopting a stepchild in California.

  1. What are the basic steps of stepparent adoption? Generally speaking, a prospective parent will fill out court forms requesting the adoption and file them. Then he or she will notify the other birth parent to secure consent to the adoption. Next, they will go through an interview and investigation. Finally, there will be an adoption hearing to approve or deny the adoption.
  2. I don’t know my stepchild’s other parent and can’t get consent: Can I still adopt? The answer may be yes, as long as you make a concerted and exhaustive effort to find the other parent. Short of this, you should plan to contact the other parent and secure consent before adoption. Consent means that the other parent agrees to relinquish his or her parental rights so that you can take them on, which is something that should be taken very seriously.
  3. Will my stepchild be involved in the legal process? Depending on the child’s age, he or she can certainly play a role in the adoption and will attend the adoption hearing. In fact, children 12 or older will have to consent to an adoption by a stepparent in California.

Of course, the adoption process is much more complex and involved than what we discuss here. However, we hope that this post provides some help for people who are just starting to examine their options for adopting a stepchild.

Once you become more committed to adopting a stepchild, you would be wise to have an attorney as you navigate the adoption process. Not only can your attorney explain the system and answer your questions more thoroughly, he or she can also help you avoid costly legal mistakes that could jeopardize the adoption.

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