California has long recognized the right of a stepparent to adopt the biological child of his or her spouse through a stepparent adoption, which terminates the parental rights of the other biological parent, which is often an ex-spouse of the parent retaining custody. But, like other states, California has also allowed adults who are unmarried but in a relationship with a biological parent to adopt that parent’s child through what is called a “second parent adoption.”
What is a Second Parent Adoption?
In a typical adoption situation where a child is in the foster care system or has otherwise been put up for adoption, the adoptive parent or parents become the sole parents of that child with full custodial rights. But in a stepparent or second parent adoption, the child already has at least one parent with legal custody of the child, and the second parent joins that first parent in having full custody of the child, with the rights and obligations in raising the child equally divided between the two parents.
The key difference, however, is that while a stepparent adoption involves a biological parent (or other legal parent of a child) who is married to a spouse who is seeking to become the adopted parent of the child, a second parent adoption involves a parent with legal custody and another adult who is not married to that parent. The adults may not be married for any number of reasons; for example, they may be planning to get married at a future date or are otherwise unable or unwilling to get married to one another.
Steps in Seeking a Second Parent Adoption
Again, California is among the states that do allow a second parent adoption, and the procedure is similar to that involved in a stepparent, but with some added steps and costs.
To begin the second parent adoption process, the second parent will petition the court for the adoption. A home study will then be done, which involves a social worker, investigator, or other appointee of the court who will visit with the child and the would-be adopting parent to assess the adult’s background along with willingness and resources to provide care for the child. This home study can involve a number of interactions, including visits to the home to determine whether it is safe and comfortable for a child and interviews with the adopting parent. The main difference between a home study involving a second parent and a stepparent is that the second parent home study process is more involved, and can cost around $3,000 more, as the court wants to take additional steps to ensure the child will be cared for in the absence of a marriage commitment between the parent and the second parent.
As in a stepparent adoption, a second parent may also need to take steps to terminate the rights of the other biological parent, which can be done if that other parent provides consent to the termination (which will both end his or her parental obligations to provide support as well as the right to have custody or visit the child) or through a court determining that a termination would be in the best interests of a child.
An experienced adoption attorney can provide you further guidance with regard to your circumstances in a proposed second parent adoption.
Experienced Attorneys for Your California Stepparent Adoption
Adoption Law Group is a law firm in Southern California dedicated exclusively to adoption.Our areas of practice include stepparent adoptions, fost-adopt finalizations, agency-assisted adoption finalizations, adult adoptions, guardianships and international readoptions. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.