There are many requirements to adopting a child, yet adopting a stepchild and the financing involved can be a bit less complex. So, how much does it cost to adopt a stepchild in California?
The costs to adopt a stepchild in California average between $350 to $2,000 for an uncontested adoption depending on whether the family processes the required court documents themselves or hires an attorney. Hiring an attorney is not required to adopt a stepchild, yet is highly recommended.
It’s common to fall in love with our stepchildren as they become a part of our lives on every level.
There are many reasons why the opportunity to adopt a stepchild might present itself.
Both biological parents will be required to give their permission for the stepparent to adopt the child.
There are times, however, when a biological parent has not been present in the child’s life for quite some time.
In today’s American society, approximately 42% of adults participate in a stepparent role.
Courtesy of the Pew Research Center
Required permission from an inactive parent may be waived if the inactive parent has been absent for one year or more. These requirements differ by state.
Let’s take a look at the costs to adopt a stepchild in detail so you can be as prepared as possible when you begin your adoption journey.
How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Stepchild in California?
We have all heard stories of adoptions costing thousands of dollars, but what about adopting a stepchild? How much does it cost to adopt a stepchild in California?
Adopting a stepchild costs between $350 to $2,000 on average depending on the circumstances of the adoption. Processing court forms without an attorney may cost as little as the required filing fees with the courthouse, or up to thousands of dollars for a contested adoption.
Uncontested stepchild adoption is what we all hope for, as contested adoptions can likely involve the expense of a lawyer.
Providing you meet all of the requirements to adopt your stepchild, your adoption could cost you as little as the mere filing fees at the courthouse.
All you have to do is simply go to your local courthouse and ask for the forms needed to adopt your stepchild.
When you are ready to file your completed court forms, you will likely be required to pay a relatively small filing fee. Then you wait for your case to be put on the docket.
You will be notified by the courts when a court date has been set, where both biological parents will have an opportunity to approve or contest the adoption.
For those dealing with a biological parent who would likely contest the adoption, it is strongly advised to retain a lawyer.
Although a lawyer is not required in a contested adoption, you will want an advocate on your side to help you win your case.
There are online services that charge about $350 for an adoption packet that you may purchase to adopt your stepchild.
These services make it convenient; just know that you can save money by going to the courthouse and asking for those forms yourself, most of the time for free.
How to File Adoption Papers Myself
For the do-it-yourselfers, you know you will save money by filing your adoption papers on your own. You are likely asking, how do I file adoption papers myself?
To file adoption papers yourself, visit your local courthouse and request adoption court forms. Fill out the required documents, and then return these court documents to the courthouse. You will receive a notification when your case is ready to be presented to a judge.
You have two options when wanting to file the adoption papers yourself. You can Google online services that will charge you approximately $350 for a packet of adoption court forms specific to the state of California.
Or, you can take a trip to your local courthouse and request these very same documents at little to no cost.
Services that provide adoption documents for a charge do come in handy if you would rather save yourself the hassle of driving to your local courthouse.
The cost of convenience has a value in itself. Just know that with a little effort and gas, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars.
Filing adoption court forms yourself is the way to go providing you are not dealing with a contested adoption.
Stepparent Adoption Forms in California
If you are planning on adopting your stepchild and doing it yourself without an attorney, you will naturally want to obtain stepparent adoption forms.
Two Things to Know About Stepparent Adoption Forms in California
1. Stepparent adoption forms are free.
2. You do not need to pay for adoption forms.
Do not be fooled into thinking that you have to pay for a packet of adoption forms from a service selling adoption forms tailored to each state.
These services, although likely upstanding and legit, are running a business to naturally make a profit.
Therefore, if you do not mind dropping $350 for the convenience of having a packet of court forms mailed to you, then by all means go for it. There is certainly something to be said for convenience.
However, for the cost of a little gas and some time out of your day, simply driving to your local courthouse and requesting stepparent adoption forms for little to no money is all that is required.
When it comes time to return those completed court forms to the courthouse, you will likely be charged a filing fee. As one may expect, this charge is unavoidable.
So how do you adopt your stepchild, anyway? Find out here.
Stepparent Adoption without Consent
Anyone wanting to adopt their stepchild hopes for a smooth process without drama and hiccups. We all wish to avoid a stepparent adoption without consent.
A stepparent adoption without consent will likely include many court hearings and generally involve attorney representation. The plaintiff and defendant will both state their case, and a judge will ultimately rule on what is in the best interest of the child.
There are many reasons why adoption is contested. Perhaps a biological parent initially agrees with the adoption and then ends up changing their mind.
There are times when a biological father was not told of the pregnancy, then later finds out about it during an adoption hearing and wants to be a part of the child’s life.
If adoption is being contested, both parties will go before a judge in a courthouse to share their side of the issue to get to a resolution. The adoption cannot be finalized until the contested adoption is resolved.
The cost to adopt a stepchild when the adoption is being contested is up in the air. Attorneys, although not required, as highly recommended for helping you win your case.
As one would expect, the bottom line is what is in the best interest of the child.
Do You Have to Be Married to Adopt a Stepchild in California?
Even though stepparent adoption is very different than other types of adoption, there are still requirements that must be met. Do you have to be married to adopt a stepchild in California?
You must be either married to or a registered domestic partner of one of the birth parents of the stepchild. If the partner is not married to the birth parent, or if the partner is not a registered domestic partner, they will not be allowed to adopt.
Perhaps the courts view marriage as a sign of commitment rather than strictly an old-fashioned value.
Important to remember is that down the road if the marriage between the biological parent and the stepparent dissolves, the adoption between the stepparent and child will remain.
The stepparent will need to be prepared for a lifelong commitment with their stepchild regardless of whether the marriage lasts or not. Adopting a stepchild is not something you can undo just because a marriage didn’t work out.
What Are the Benefits of Adopting My Stepchild?
Although adopting a stepchild is a choice decision, and not all stepparents adopt their spouse’s children, doing so can have significant benefits for the stepchild, the stepparent, and the stepparent’s spouse. Adopting your stepchild has three major advantages.
It’s a Way to Demonstrate Your Commitment to Your Stepchild
Legally adopting your stepchild is a clear and meaningful show of your continuous dedication to your stepchild, aside from the legal privileges you will obtain as a parent.
What you’re saying to your stepchild, your spouse, and the rest of the world is that you’re promising to care for that child as if it were your own and that that stepchild may grow up knowing that he or she can depend on you as a supporting parent no matter what happens.
You Will Gain Full Parental Rights and Legal Decision Making of Your Stepchild
If you are a stepparent to a child who has not been adopted, you are not regarded as the child’s legal parent.
This means you don’t have the legal rights and obligations that come with being the child’s parent, such as the ability to participate in decisions about the child’s care or upbringing.
Furthermore, the child’s other biological parent (not the one with whom you are married) may have the right to make crucial decisions on behalf of the child that you do not, such as participating in educational, medical, and religious decisions.
If you are not an adoptive parent, you may not be able to do things like visit the child in the hospital or accompany the child to specific locations.
Finally, without an adoption, if your marriage fails or your spouse dies or becomes disabled, you may lose your ability to be engaged in the child’s upbringing, and complete custody may instead be given to the husband, other biological parent, or even a grandmother.
You can prevent these consequences by taking action immediately to adopt a stepchild and gaining full parental rights.
A Difficult Biological Parent’s Influence Can Be Minimized
The parental rights of the second biological parent who is not living with the child are terminated in a stepparent adoption.
This implies that the other biological parent will lose any rights to joint custody or visitation (if any previously existed), and so will be unable to get a court order to engage with or otherwise influence the child.
Any child support obligations are likewise terminated as a result of this termination.
Although there are many situations in which a noncustodial biological parent can be a positive or neutral influence in a child’s life, in far too many cases, they are an unwanted influence due to behavioral issues, drugs and alcohol abuse, disagreements about how the child should be raised (e.g. religious or educational issues), and so on.
Although you and your spouse have the option of allowing a biological parent to maintain contact with the child willingly, a stepparent adoption allows you to eliminate all contact between the child and that parent.
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina does not run an adoption agency. Her website is strictly information-based, so she is able to provide unbiased, credible information that she hopes will help guide those along their journey.