ALG works to treat all parties involved in the stepparent adoption process with respect and to keep the child’s best interests at the heart of every decision made.
We enjoy handling stepparent adoptions, primarily because they represent a beautiful, life-long commitment to a child by a person with no legal obligation to do so. When a person chooses to adopt a child born to their spouse during a previous relationship, they affirm their love for and commitment to that child, and promise to assume all of the legal obligations of a biological parent-child relationship.
The stepparent adoption process varies slightly by county of residence in California, but the general process begins by filing an Adoption Request in your county.
After filing the request, we send it to the social services agency responsible for investigating and reporting upon the adoption to the court. The investigation is very straightforward, requiring you to gather certified copies of marriage and birth certificates, etc. and for all parties to the case to be interviewed, including the child. During this process, our office works with the investigating agency to either obtain the consent of the non-custodial parent, if living, or to initiate court proceedings to terminate his or her parental rights. Once consent or a termination order is obtained and the report completed, we set the case for a hearing date and attend the celebratory day with you.
What happens if the non-custodial parent won’t consent?
We have found that the old saying, “ you catch more flies with honey” is often very true in obtaining the non-custodial parent’s consent to the adoption. In fact, many stepparent adoptions end up being surprisingly straightforward. In those cases where consent cannot be obtained, parental rights most usually are terminated through a judicial finding of abandonment. In determining if abandonment is present, a court reviews a variety of factors, including timely payment of support, visitation and contact. Ultimately, the court must rule in the best interests of the child and views permanancy and stability as vital to a child’s best interests. The court is much more concerned with actual conduct of the non-custodial parent than with excuses or good intentions.
What if we are unable to locate the non-custodial parent?
It’s very common that clients have lost contact with the non-custodial parent long ago and in those cases diligent efforts must be made to locate and contact that party. Our office works to quickly satisfy the legal due diligence requirements for finding the parent and to obtain an order waiving notice or, if the party is found, to give proper notice of the proceedings.
How long does a typical Stepparent Adoption take?
Stepparent adoptions can take as little as six months from start to finish. If consents are not readily obtained and termination proceedings are required, it will take longer, but can typically be completed within one year from commencing the process.
What is your fee for a Stepparent Adoption?
Our base fee for all stepparent adoptions is $1,450. If the county social services agency is able to obtain the absent parent’s consent or if the absent parent is deceased, that’s all you’ll be charged in addition to costs. Additional actions to terminate the absent parent’s rights are in addition to the base fee and are charged on a flat-fee basis as follows:
ALG contractors obtain necessary consents from non-custodial parent: $400
Alleged Natural Father’s parental rights terminated by court action: $1450*
Presumed father or non-custodial mother’s rights terminated by court action: $2500*
An additional fee incurs in either of the termination cases if the whereabouts of the absent parent is unknown and a due diligence search must be conducted: $75
Court filing fee: $160/child (this varies based on your county; Los Angeles county is $160)
In our experience, it is unlikely that the absent, non-custodial parent will litigate the adoption. If that occurs, we will consult with you regarding options and likely costs. A separate retainer agreement will be executed. Our billing rate for these cases is $250/hr
Federal law confers special rights and protections for children and parents with American Indian heritage. ICWA cases can be very complex and invoke a different procedure. If ICWA is applicable, we will consult with you regarding options and likely costs. A separate retainer agreement will be executed. Our billing rate for handling an ICWA issue is $250/hr.
*California law makes a distinction between alleged natural and presumed fathers. If you were married to the father or if he is named on the birth certificate or has lived with the child or provided significant support during the pregnancy, he may be a presumed father. Otherwise, he is probably an alleged father. We will discuss with you the specifics of your case during our intake interview and devise a strategy as to how to best approach the biological father.