Stepfamilies are a huge part of American society, yet the mainstream media rarely mentions the unique needs of both parents and children when they are assimilating into one family. The U.S. Census Bureau reports 1300 new stepfamilies are forming every day and more than 50 percent of families are remarried or recoupled with kids less than 13 years old.
Unlike normal adoption, stepparent adoption is for individuals who want to solidify their commitment as a stepfather or stepmother and adopt their stepchild. An experienced stepparent adoption attorney is critical to draft legal documents, review them, and counsel on a stepparent’s rights as well as legalities of which the biological parent must be aware. Expert legal counsel will ensure that a stepparent adoption will not have a chance to be reversed.
A stepparent adoption does end the absent biological parent’s legal ties to the child, including custodial and visitation rights and financial support. There are four main ways to do a stepparent adoption with an accomplished California family law attorney.
The non-primary biological parent can sign a state authorized form consenting to the adoption by the stepparent. The Department of Social Services will investigate to determine if it is in the child’s best interests and create a report with their findings. Children should be informed that the stepparent wants to adopt them as the social service investigator will interview the child about what he or she wants and what they understand about the adoption. Also, children older than 12 years must give written consent of the adoption. An adoption hearing will then be held and if everything is successful, the stepparent will have the adoption certificate.
In contrast, if the biological parent has not spoken or financially provided for the child in more than a year, then the custodial parent will have full custody of the child. The stepparent must prove these facts and give testimony, but no investigation is mandated. Only if the absent parent can give a sufficient reason for not communicating or supporting the child will the court not give its consent. Otherwise, it takes only one court hearing to get the certificate.
Yet in some cases the absent parent has only failed to communicate or give financial support, but not both shortcomings. This makes the stepparent adoption process a bit more complex, and the Probation Department will have to research and report if abandonment has occurred. California courts will hear the testimony of the party who wants to adopt and incorporate the probation report. One legal petition is required to terminate the absent parent’s rights and a second petition completed to adopt the child. Two separate court orders must be done and the absent parent’s relatives must be notified of the proceedings. If the child has been deemed abandoned, the court will then allow the adoption decree.
The last way to get a stepparent adoption is if the parents of the child were never married, and thus there is no natural father. A court order to terminate the alleged natural father’s rights is far easier than the aforementioned routes. The couple can then go about the stepparent adoption in the normal way.
After an adoption, the child is then eligible for Social Security and life insurance benefits should either of their parents pass away. Some couples get legal assistance to change the child’s last name and modify the birth certificate, too.
The Maggio Law Firm has guided many stepparents and the couples in solidifying their bond with the children. As an experienced Orange County stepparent adoption attorney, Gerald Maggio is well versed in all the steps of the stepparent adoption process.