If you’re looking to adopt a child in California, you have a complex road ahead of you. And it should be. Taking legal responsibility for someone is no small feat. The courts want to know you are ready for this lifelong commitment.
In order to begin the adoption process in the state of California, you must first determine what kind of adoption you and the child need. There are generally two broad categories of types of adoptions. The first type is a stepparent adoption, where the spouse or domestic partner of a parent seeks to obtain parental rights over a child. The second type encompasses independent, agency, and international adoptions. Independent adoptions happen when there is no adoption agency involved. This type of adoption also may allow the existing parents to maintain parental rights if both the existing parents and adopting parents consent. Agency adoptions happen when the California Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency becomes a part of the adoption process.
If you want to adopt through the stepparent adoption process, you must first fill out an Adoption Request, Judicial Council (“JC”) form ADOPT-200. This form gives the court basic information regarding the potential adoption. Then, if the child is 12 years old or above, they must obtain consent from the child and fill out an Adoption Agreement, JC form ADOPT-210. Children under 12 years old do not need to consent to an adoption. Prospective parents will also need to fill out an Adoption Order, JC form ADOPT-215. This document is what the judge will sign if the adoption is approved. Additionally, prospective parents must fill out forms ICWA-010(A) and ICWA-020. These forms tell the court that proper investigation about any Indian ancestry has been performed in accordance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Finally, prospective parents must fill out a Declaration Confirming Parentage in Stepparent Adoption, JC form ADOPT-205. This form is designed to tell the court about how the child was conceived and whether any other parents exist.
After the forms are filled out, prospective parents can try to have their forms reviewed by a court’s family law facilitator or self-help center. Prospective parents should also be advised to make at least 2 copies of all of their forms. After confirmation and copying has been completed, prospective parents may file the forms with the court clerk and pay a filing fee, which may be waived if they cannot afford it.
Prospective parents must then serve the other birth parent with the Adoption Request and obtain the other birth parent’s consent to the adoption. Consent may not be necessary if the other birth parent has abandoned the child for over a year without paying child support or seeing or talking to the child, if the other birth parent does not show up to the adoption hearing to object to the adoption, or if the judge deems the adoption to be in the best interest of the child.
Before a court date can be set, prospective parents must have an interview and investigation with an investigator, social worker, or family therapist. The investigator will write a report on the pending adoption and will send copies to both the court and the prospective parents. Once the report is filed, a clerk will give the prospective parents a date for the adoption hearing.
At the adoption hearing, prospective parents must bring all relevant forms and the child. This hearing will either confirm or deny the pending adoption. If the adoption is confirmed, the judge will sign the Adoption Order, thus finalizing the adoption process.
If you are interested in adoption, our office can help. Feel free to contact us to get started!