We’re familiar with both sides of the stepparent adoption story
Securing Parental Rights and Relationships
Stepparent adoptions in California can be more complex–emotionally and legally–than many people realize. Adoption gives parental rights to a stepparent, but that means these adoptions sometimes also involve the loss of parental rights for a natural parent.
At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, we understand the importance of the relationship between parent and child, and we support parents on either side of the issue. We help stepparents who want to adopt their stepchildren and we also represent parents who want to retain their parental rights and object to stepparent adoption.
We offer guidance and information to help you make the best choices for your family, and we advocate zealously on your behalf to help you reach your goals for the future. Happy endings look different in every situation, and we want to help you reach the right ending for your specific story.
The Meaning of Stepparent Adoption
When a stepparent adopts a stepchild in California, they gain all the same parental rights—and responsibilities—as a natural parent. That means that if a child has two living parents, one of those parents may have to either voluntarily give up their rights, or the court will need to sever those rights. In some cases, California’s “3rd parent law” can enable a parent to consent to stepparent adoption without losing their own parental rights.
Regardless of the situation and the goal, these are all serious steps because they involve the future and welfare of a child. Even when there is no need to end one parent’s rights to establish stepparent adoption, everyone involved needs to understand the permanency of their decisions and the obligations they agree to accept.
Requirements for Stepparent Adoption
To adopt a stepchild, you must either:
- Obtain the written consent of the other parent
- Demonstrate to the court why consent is not necessary (such as if the other parent is deceased)
- Petition the court to end the parental rights of the other parent
In addition, you will need to undergo a thorough investigation to ensure that adoption will be in the child’s best interests and not put them at risk. This will include a criminal background check, interviews with you and the parent who is retaining custody (and possibly the child), and examination of critical documents.
Once the investigation is complete, you will need to file appropriate forms with the court and attend a hearing where all the critical information will be reviewed by the court. Then the judge will sign the adoption order, and you should get certified copies to prove your new parental status until the child’s new birth certificate is officially ready.
When a Parent Disagrees with Stepparent Adoption
Parents have the right to refuse to consent to adoption of their child by a stepparent. The extent of their rights depend on whether they are considered under California law to be a “presumed parent” or an “alleged parent.” A “presumed parent” can be a parent with their name on the child’s birth certificate, or someone who lived with the child, provided support to the child, helped raise the child, or a person the child recognizes as a parent. The birth mother may be a presumed parent.
By contrast, an alleged parent is someone who has not done any of the things that would cause someone to be presumed to be the parent, such as supporting the child. This could be someone identified by the birth mother as the biological father of the child or someone who claims to be the father of the child.
If an alleged parent objects to a stepparent adoption, the court may set a hearing and listen to arguments, and then the court might decide consent is not necessary. Or the court could decide the alleged parent should be treated as a presumed parent.
When a presumed parent refuses to consent to a stepparent adoption, the parties seeking the adoption will need to prove to the court that the presumed parent should have rights terminated because they:
- Neglected the child
- Abandoned the child (failed to provide support or make contact)
- Treated the child cruelly
- Are unfit to be a parent because of substance abuse or mental disability
- Are unfit to be a parent because of felony conviction
This can be a challenging and painful process for everyone in the family. Whether you are trying to obtain the adoption or you are fighting the severance of your parental rights, you need to work with an attorney who is prepared to investigate and present the right evidence with tact and without causing unnecessary distress to the child.
Trust Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC to Secure Your Parental Rights
Our dedicated and experienced family law team knows how to help you achieve the best outcome for your family. Led by Certified Family Law Specialists, we understand the complex issues involved in stepparent adoption cases and we know how to present evidence to support your objectives.
For a confidential consultation to learn more about the ways Holstrom, Block & Parke can protect your family, contact us now.
At our firm, we are familiar with both sides of the stepparent adoption story.
We provide clients on either side of this issue with quality legal advice and representation, tailored to their specific situation and designed to accomplish their goals. To learn more about this process, your legal rights, and how our lawyers can help, call one of our Southern California office locations directly or contact us online.
Can I Fight a Stepparent Adoption?
Having your rights as a parent taken away can be a scary prospect. The good news is that if you are a good parent who is present in your child’s life, the court is more likely to be on your side. However, you may still have to face messy disputes and allegations against your ability to care for your child. If you are a parent who does not want to consent to the stepparent adoption, we can help ensure that your parental rights are protected and upheld.