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Adopting my adult stepchild in California—what happens to the biological parents’ rights?

As adult adoption lawyers at Adoption Law Group, probably the most common reason we see for adult adoption is the desire to formalize a stepparent-child relationship. Often, the adopting parent has been in the young adult’s life since their childhood but, for whatever reason, was never able to complete a stepparent adoption while the child was still a minor. The good news is that adult adoption in California is a very simple process, involving lots of paperwork, but usually not requiring notice to the biological parents.

Of course, when one of the biological parents is married to the adopting parent, that biological parent will need to consent to the adoption. For instance, if Jane and Joe are married and Joe is adopting Jane’s adult child, Jane will need to consent to the adoption. Under California law, Jane will retain her parental rights because she is married to Joe. If, however, Jane and Joe are not legally married, additional wording will be required to make sure Jane retains her parental status. The biological father’s rights, however, will be automatically terminated by operation of law as soon as the adult adoption finalizes.

It is important to work with an attorney who specializes in adult adoption from the outset to make sure that you fully understand the effect of the adoption on biological parents’ rights and the possible impact that can have on inheritance and other rights. Sometimes, an adult child wants her biological parents to retain their rights. That is a possibility which Adoption Law Group can guide you through. Another issue is whether or not the adult adoptee wants a new birth certificate issued with the adopting parent on it. In California, it is even sometimes possible to list three (or more!) parents on the new birth certificate. An attorney at Adoption Law Group would be happy to speak to you about the specifics of your situation and guide you through the adult adoption process in your county.