One of the most common scenarios in which a California adoption occurs is where a stepparent adopts the child of the person that he or she has married. Because marriage to a person does not in and of itself provide a stepparent with the legal rights and responsibilities associated with parenting a child, taking the additional step of having the family courts approve the stepparent adoption is necessary. Assuming the other parent and the child (especially when the child is 12 or over) are on board with the adoption, a stepparent adoption can be a relatively straightforward process, but one necessary step in the process which can cause complications is the required termination of the non-custodial biological parent’s parental rights. Below we provide an overview of what you can expect in the course of obtaining a termination of parental rights in a stepparent adoption.
When the Noncustodial Biological Parent Consents to Termination
Ideally, the noncustodial parent will consent to his or her parental rights being terminated. This is not always the case, however. By consenting to termination, the noncustodial parent is giving up his or her rights to visitation with the child and other rights associated with parentage. While you and the other custodial parent are always free to voluntarily invite the noncustodial parent to visit and be an ongoing part of the child’s life as you both see fit, that parent would no longer be able to pursue legal visitation rights via a court order. By giving up his or her rights in a stepparent adoption, however, the noncustodial parent will become unburdened from certain legal obligations such as being required to pay child support.
If the noncustodial parent does consent and he or she lives in California, then that parent will need to sign an official court document titled “Stepparent Adoption – Consent to Adoption by Parent in California Giving Custody to Husband or Wife or Domestic Partner of Other Parent.” This document must be signed in the presence of an official court investigator, clerk, or notary public. Separate forms are required when the parent is outside of California or in the Armed Forces.
When the Noncustodial Biological Parent Will Not Voluntarily Consent
If the noncustodial parent does not want to consent to giving up his or her parental rights, then that parent will need to be notified of the pending termination of rights and given a chance to plead his or her case in front of a judge against termination.
You will need to file a petition with the court asking it to take the necessary steps to terminate the noncustodial parent’s rights, and then you will need to serve notice of your petition with that parent. In some cases the other parent cannot be found, but the court will expect you to take reasonable steps to locate the parent and give them reasonable notice of the pending action. If you cannot locate the parent, you and/or your adoption attorney will need to present detailed evidence to the court regarding the steps you took in locating and/or obtaining consent from the other parent.
Assuming the other parent is found, attorneys for both and you and the other parent may present submissions to the court for and against termination of parental rights and then appear before the judge to argue your respective positions. In making its determination on termination, the court will consider your ability as the stepparent to provide a suitable home for the child as well as the noncustodial parent’s fitness and history as a parent, which can including looking at issues of domestic violence, payment of child support, drug and alcohol abuse, and ongoing presence (or lack thereof) in the child’s life.
Help With Obtaining Termination of Parental Rights
Adoption Law Group is a law firm in Southern California dedicated exclusively to the 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.