With so many children needing a loving place to call home, that would seem to be an easy task. Sometimes it can be but sometimes the task can be complex, confusing, and one filled with anxiety. During an adoption agreement, the parent adopting the child takes on all legal rights and responsibilities that a biological parent would have. This implies that the rights of the biological parent will be terminated during an adoption. Generally, an adoptive parent is not the parent for the child but is the individual seeking to become the legal parent. Adoption comes in many different ways. The person adopting the child, the place where the child comes from, and the application process are the main factors that vary from one case to another depending on the unique circumstances surrounding the child, the biological parents, and the adoptive parents. To better understand the basics of adoption and work through the process in San Diego, consider working with a skilled attorney with extensive knowledge of the complex adoption laws and how they apply in your case.
If adoption is the best option for you and your family, San Diego Family Law Attorney can help. We are determined and dedicated to providing you with the information you need for your situation and helping you to bring a child into your home in the smoothest way possible. We will work diligently to tailor a plan that’s best suited for your needs and that will ensure that the future of your adoptive child is safeguarded. We encourage you to call us today at 619-610-7425 or fill out our contact form.
Can You Adopt a Child You Know?
In California, you can adopt a child that you already know. Usually, these are adoptions by close relatives, domestic partnership adoptions, and stepparent adoptions. Usually, these adoptions are granted when a parent's rights are revoked or when the child’s home is disrupted. The most common incidents of adoption in California are those that involve stepparents or domestic parents. These are also the most preferred as they allow the child to remain with someone they know without much change in his or her life. When you become an adoptive parent, you’ll be responsible for child’s health, safety, and well-being.
Under California Family Code Section 9000, a child can be adopted by a stepparent, who may be a domestic partner or the stepparent’s spouse. When you file a petition, you are simply requesting the court to grant you the permission to become your stepchild’s legal parent, which means receiving the legal rights and responsibilities for the child. There are several procedures that must be followed for the family court to grant your request. First, you’ll be required to obtain the consent of both biological parents if they are alive. A court-ordered investigation will also be carried out to ensure that you are fit to be the legal parent of the child.
One important thing to note, California law, under Family Code Section 3010, seeks to ensure that there is a frequent and continuing contact between the child and the biological parents. This, therefore, implies that adoption does not always terminate the rights of the biological parents. If the biological parent wants to maintain the rights and responsibilities, obtaining an adoption can be difficult. Having an experienced adoption attorney is the best course of action you can take if you are serious about pursuing this legal matter.
In fact, California promotes foster care and adoption within the same county in order to ensure the stability of the child is maintained. In this case, parents residing outside of California may have some difficulty in adopting children from California. However, parents living in California will not be affected by this rule if they wish to adopt a child from another state or country.
The Involvement of the Government in the Adoption Process
Transferring the parental rights from one set of parents to another is a legal process that required the government’s involvement. It is upon the government to ensure that the child’s best interests are protected in every adoption without creating any trouble for a growing family. As such, families hoping to adopt a child must go through a screening process that includes a training process, a background check, and a home evaluation that will be used to determine if the home is safe for the child.
Even after the adoption has been granted and the child has moved in with the new parents, the court will conduct intermittent checks on the family in order to verify that all the needs of the child are being met and the best interests are protected. This direct involvement will stop after the adoption is finalized and all the parental rights granted to the adoptive parents.
Ways That an Adoption Can Take Place
An adoption can take place in several ways. Parents who hope to adopt a child may go through an agency or work with a different professional. These depend on the kind of adoption.
In California, there are licensed agencies that deal exclusively with adoptions. There are public agencies, which are an arm of the county government and private agencies which are non-profit corporations that are privately funded. With an adoption agency, biological parents willingly relinquish their parental rights trusting that the agency will find an appropriate adopting home to transfer the rights to. Traditionally, there was no contact between the birth parents and the adopting parents in agency adoptions, but this has changed in recent years.
Independent adoptions work with Department of Child Services but don’t require adoption agencies. Independent adoption involves the birth parent working directly with the adopting parents. In this case, the law requires the birth mother to have personal knowledge regarding the adopting family and also make an informed decision that this is a proper home for the child. Information required include names, ages, race, religion, employment status, number of previous marriages, length of current marriage, number of person who reside in the home, whether there other children in the home, any health conditions affecting their normal activities, previous criminal convictions, any allegations relate to child neglect or abuse, and general information about the specific area of residence.
After birth, the child is moved directly from the hospital to the adopting parents if the mother decides that it’s the place she would like to place her child. The adopting parents will then be required to file a petition with the court requesting to be issued with a decree of adoption. Before the judge can act on the request, there will be a six month waiting period that will involve court-appointed agencies making an investigation to determine whether the home is fit for adoption. Another investigation will be conducted to determine whether an agency adoption would have been a better option to the independent adoption. If the evaluation is a favorable one, there will be a brief hearing at the judge’s chambers that will involve the judge signing the decree.
You can adopt a child from another country while still residing in California. It’s imperative that you first get more information about international adoption laws because they may be different from California laws. Visit The Intercountry Adoption Journey page to learn more. This is basically a course that you’ll need to complete if you want to adopt a child from another country. When you complete the course, you’ll be given a Certificate of Completion which will be valid for three years. If you are hoping to adopt or you are already going through the process, you learn more about the requirements and processes by visiting The National Council for Adoption.
Adoptions from Outside of California
It’s possible to adopt an American child that is currently living in another state. The level of simplicity or complexity varies from one state to another. To find the right child for you, you may want to consider working with an adoption agency. Adoptions from one state to another are regulated by a system known as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. This system will be involved in both states. Parents can be granted an adoption if they meet the adoption requirements of California and the state where the child is from.
Presumed and Alleged Birth Fathers
Under California law, there is an almost irrelevance in paternity. All possible fathers are grouped into two categories: alleged fathers and presumed fathers. The category in which a possible father is placed does not in any way relate to whether or not he is the actual biological father. A man is a presumed father if:
- He is or was married to the birth mother
- Their marriage ceremony appeared to be valid but was actually invalid for some reasons such as bigamy or underage
- He has received the child into his home and acted as the father
- He, the mother and the hospital declared that he was the biological father. This applies in cases of unmarried parents. As the law stipulates, an unmarried woman has no right to name the father on the birth certificate until a declaration of paternity form is signed at the hospital.
A presumed father has the right to rescind his consent to the adoption. Also, he can sign a consent without acknowledging that he is the biological father. There is a form that a man who denies that he is the biological father signs in order to relinquish any parental rights that he might have. In most cases the whereabouts of the father is unknown and the state will need to attempt to locate the father before his parental rights are terminated.
How Evaluation of the Child’s Best Interests Is Done
Before granting a stepparent adoption, it is the duty of the Judge to appraise whether allowing the adoption is in the best interests of your stepchild. In California, this is achieved through the application of Family Code Section 3011, which enables the courts to determine whether granting a prayer brought forth by the interested party is in the best interests of the child involved. The ruling made is critical as it’s likely to have a direct impact on the legal status of the parents or the custodial arrangements. Below are some of the key factors that must be considered while evaluating the child’s best interests according to Fam Code Section 3011:
- Age, welfare, health, and safety of your stepchild
- Adequacy and duration of your stepchild’s living provisions
- The amount of time you have spent with your stepchild and that which he or she has spent with biological parents
- Emotional connection between your stepchild, you, and biological parents
- The ability of both biological parents to care for your stepchild
- History of domestic violence of both you and the biological parents of your stepchild
The Role of an Attorney in Your Adoption
A skilled, experienced attorney plays an active role in all stages of an adoption. This include:
- Adoption planning: the attorney can help you find the right type of adoption that best fits your needs. This may include helping you obtain the required home study for adoption and providing you with a realistic view of the other necessary steps.
- Birth mother pairing: when looking to adopt, getting to choose the best birth mother to fit your wishes and needs is vital. An attorney will make it possible for you to meet with the mothers and ask them the necessary questions
- Pre-placement preparations: Once you’ve been paired with an expectant mother, your attorney will walk you through the process of going counseling, notices, advisements, and other steps that you must complete properly and a timely manner in order to ensure that you assume custody when the child is released from the hospital.
- Placement and legal adoption: This is the final step that involves termination of parental rights of the birthparents and allowing you to formally have the legal rights. The attorney will provide legal assistance until the adoption is finalized through the courts.
A San Diego Family Law Attorney can help you through this complex process not only by ensuring that you have the necessary guidance and support, but also offering you and your child the best start to this new chapter of life. We offer assistance to both adoptive families and birth parents. Whether you are an expectant mother considering adoption or a hopeful adoptive family and you have any questions or you need our assistance, we're here to help. You can reach us online or call us at 619-610-7425 to schedule an initial and entirely confidential consultation with a qualified lawyer.