How to Adopt Your Stepchild in California: 3 Things You Must Know

California adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in California?

To adopt a stepchild in California, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.

adopting a stepchild in California

In California, stepparents may choose to adopt their stepchild for multiple reasons:

  • Adopting a stepchild gives the stepparent the same legal rights and obligations as a biological parent, including the power to make decisions about the child’s welfare, learning, and medical care.
  • Adopting a stepchild can deepen the emotional connection between the stepparent and the child, as well as provide a sense of stability and security for them.
  • In the event of a biological parent’s death, adoption by the stepparent can ensure that the child is cared for and not placed in foster care or with unknown relatives.
  • Assuming one’s stepparent passes away, adopting a stepchild can ensure they are entitled to inheritance and other benefits.
  • Providing emotional security and a sense of belonging within the new family can give the child great comfort.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in California

To adopt your stepchild in California, you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or you can purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.

Hire an Adoption Lawyer

In California, hiring an adoption lawyer specializing in family law to adopt a stepchild is by no means required. Although, giving thought to using an attorney for the adoption practice should be seriously taken into account.

This is because the adoption procedure can be intricate and entails various legal proceedings and provisions that must be complied with.

An attorney can direct you through the adoption and ensure that everything is accomplished accurately and on time, as well as guide you should you encounter bumps in the road in the adoption process.

A lawyer can assist with matters such as filing a lawsuit, creating contracts, drafting legal paperwork, and so much more.

If there are any legal issues or disputes, it is useful to have an attorney on board who can offer advice and legal representation.

Having a lawyer to handle the adoption process can help to provide peace of mind.

While hiring an attorney does not guarantee the outcome of their stepchild’s adoption in California, it can help increase the chances of a smooth legal process.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual and their particular circumstances to determine whether or not to enlist the services of a lawyer.

Click here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in California.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

Stepparents wishing to adopt their stepchildren in California should check with their local courthouse for information and resources about the adoption process.

Many courthouses have family law facilitators to help guide families with the specific court forms they may need.

The local courthouse will have information about the specific requirements and procedures for stepparent adoptions in their county.

Courthouses typically provide court form packets for stepparent adoptions, which may include the necessary forms and directions for completing the process. These packets can be received at the courthouse or downloaded from their website. Generally, these forms include:

  • Petition for Adoption
  • Consent to the Adoption form
  • Order of Adoption
  • Home Study Report
  • Background check forms
  • Plus any paperwork required by the court.

Local courthouse requirements and forms necessary to complete the stepparent adoption process may vary by county, so it is essential to check with your local courthouse for more information.

Stepparents considering adoption can obtain forms and instructions from their local courthouse for guidance on how to complete the forms, as well as any questions about the process.

It is also beneficial to check with the court for upcoming adoption clinics or workshops they may provide to help with this process.

For more information, visit the California Court System.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In California, a stepparent may be able to purchase stepchild adoption court forms through a service such as These services typically offer instructions and the required adoption papers to complete the process.

Many services offer access to the required forms and instructions for adoption and will fill the court forms out for you with the information that you provide to them.

It is important to remember that these services can provide useful information but cannot and do not provide legal advice.

It is essential to check the reliability and competence of a service provider before enrolling. In addition, fees may also vary from one provider to another and it is best to compare prices before deciding on a particular service.

Before considering purchasing adoption court forms, a stepparent should consult the local courthouse and inquire about the service’s reputation and cost.

Additionally, it is essential to determine whether the service is approved by California to offer adoption forms.

Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in California.

Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.

Adoption Process

In California, the process of adoption for stepparents requires multiple steps and can take up to several months before it is finalized. This includes filing a petition for adoption, a home study, a background check, and consent from the biological parent whose rights will have to be relinquished.

The court must also check that everything is in order before sealing the adoption.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

Submitting the Petition for Adoption is a critical component of the stepparent adoption process. This legal document must be filed with the local courthouse and serves as the stepparent’s request to adopt their stepchild.

Certain details concerning the parties involved in the adoption must be included in the petition, such as:

  • The name, address, and line of work of the stepparent.
  • Name, birthdate, and current address of the minor.
  • The name and location of the biological parent.
  • Details on any additional court cases affecting the child, like divorce or custody battles.

The best interest of the child should be central to any adoption decision, and this must be stated.

Birth certificates and other identifying documents will also be required by all parties involved in the adoption process, including the adoptive parents.

The petition should include details concerning the stepparent’s relationship with the child, their current living environment, and any other factors that could support why the adoption would be advantageous for the child.

It is vitally important to make sure the petition paperwork is correctly filled out and every necessary detail is included; otherwise, the petition may be declined.

Once it’s turned in, the court will schedule a hearing date so they can assess the application and decide if the adoption should go ahead.

In addition, the stepparent must pay a filing fee when submitting the petition to the court, and this amount may differ depending on the county and court.

Apart from the official request, the stepparent might need to provide other legal papers such as a home study report, background check, and authorization forms.

The court could also ask for extra forms based on the particular situation at hand.

So make sure to inquire with your local courthouse regarding the required documents in your jurisdiction.

Home Study and Background Check

In California, the stepparent adoption process requires both a home study and a background check. The home study is a review of the stepparent’s home environment and the child’s well-being, while the background check is a review of any criminal or child abuse records for all household members.

Home Study

A home study for the adoption petition consists of a visit to the stepparent’s home by a social worker, who will assess the living conditions and the relationship between the stepparent and the child.

Additional family members or individuals in the child’s life may be interviewed as well. The social worker will then submit a report on their findings to the court.

The home study report will contain detailed information regarding the child’s living situation, how the stepparent interacts with them, and any other pertinent facts that indicate why adoption would be in the child’s best interest.

Additionally, the report will include any potential issues or recommendations that the social worker may have concerning the adoption.

Background Check

The stepparent and all other adults in the household must undergo a background check that includes reviewing their criminal record as well as any history of child abuse or neglect. These results must be provided to the court when submitting an adoption petition.

The court will assess the home study and background check results when reviewing the adoption petition to ensure that the stepparent and child’s environment are secure and that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

It is essential to contact the local courthouse to determine the exact home study and background check process applicable in your county as it can differ from county to county. Extra paperwork or assessment may be necessary for some counties.

Consent of the Biological Parent

In California, stepparent adoption requires the consent of the child’s biological parent. However, the court can waive this requirement if it is not in the child’s best interest to have their biological parent retain parental rights.

For the adoption to proceed, the biological parent must give written consent in front of a notary public.

This consent affirms that the parent is aware of the adoption proceedings and is voluntarily relinquishing their parental rights.

The form will also include a waiver of their right to be notified about any further adoption proceedings.

If the natural parent cannot give their consent or is not willing to, the court may decide to proceed with the adoption if it is in the best interest of the child.

The court can then terminate the parental rights of the absent parent due to either abandonment or being proven unfit as a parent.

It is important to remember that a biological parent’s consent is not the only factor taken into account by the court when deciding whether or not to grant an adoption.

Besides, other aspects such as the home study report, background check results, and any other relevant information will be reviewed by the court to determine if the adoption is in the child’s best interest.

It is important to remember that the procedure for getting approval from the biological parent might be different depending on the county, so it’s best to check with your local court about their specific guidelines.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In order to complete the stepparent adoption process in California, it is essential to terminate the biological parent’s rights. This involves officially bringing to an end the biological parent’s legal rights and responsibilities regarding the child.

A notarized consent form signed by the natural parent will terminate their rights as a parent if they voluntarily consent to adoption. This form can also be required by a court order.

If the biological parent is unable or unwilling to provide their consent, the court may grant the adoption if it is in the child’s best interests.

The court may also terminate parental rights if they are found to have abandoned the child, are deemed unfit as a parent or have not been involved in their life for an extended period of time.

The court may order the termination of parental rights if it is determined to be in the best interests of the child. This decision is based on factors such as:

  • The safety of the child
  • Their physical and emotional needs
  • Their relationship with the biological parent
  • Their relationship with any stepparents.

Termination of parental rights is a serious legal action that can only be done through a court order.

Taking into account that the termination of biological parents’ rights can differ from one county to another, and depending on the court, some counties may request additional paperwork or evaluation.

Therefore, it is suggested to contact the local courthouse in order to find out the specific requirements applicable to your location.

Finalization of the Adoption

In California, the last step in the stepparent adoption process is finalizing the adoption. This requires attending a court adoption hearing to review your adoption petition and home study report; if approved, the court will grant the adoption.

The court will set a finalization hearing several months after the adoption petition is filed. All parties involved, including the stepparent, the child, and the social worker must be present at this hearing.

Once there, the court will review the paperwork such as the adoption petition and home study report. Providing everything is in order, the judge will then sign an adoption order.

An order of adoption legally grants the stepparent all rights and responsibilities of a biological parent, from making decisions about the child’s upbringing and education to healthcare.

This document also revokes any parental rights and responsibilities held by the child’s biological parent.

Once the adoption is finalized, the stepparent can apply for a new birth certificate for the child which will show them as the official parent of the child.

It is essential to take into account that the completion of adoption may vary depending on the location and the court.

Certain counties may necessitate additional documentation or scrutinization prior to completing the adoption.

Should I Adopt My Stepchild?

A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, should I adopt my stepchild?

You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.

If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge.

It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.

It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.

At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward.

Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.

If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild.

Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.

Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.

After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.

No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.

Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?

It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?

You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.

You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in California

Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.

If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit California Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.

Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.

Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.

You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.

Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.

The below link has the state court forms you will need if you plan on processing your adoption request yourself.

Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent

Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.

How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.

There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.

If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.

When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations. Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.

What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption? States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child. However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.

States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.

A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?

Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their homes? Many things can deem a parent unfit.

For a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support in a very long time, usually a year.

If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent, after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.

However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.

Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them

Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to permit to be adopted.

Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.

I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!

And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.

And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.

What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in California?

Prior to permitting an adoption to take place, a home study or home study is a screening of the home and lives of potential adoptive parents.

A home study is needed by legislation in some countries, as well as in all international adoptions. Even though it isn’t legally needed, an adoption agency may insist on it.

Unless requested by the court, a Home Study is not required for a stepparent adoption. In stepparent adoptions, a Home Study refers to a physical investigation of the premises where the child is residing.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in California?

A child who is twelve (12) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in California. Younger children are not required to give their consent.

You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.

Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot.

Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.

Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?

Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to.

Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.

Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in California?

Under citation code Fam. Code §§ 8603; 8604; 8605, a father must consent to an adoption in California if:

  • He is the living birth parent, or
  • The parent having custody is required to consent to adoption if the other parent
    • Fails to communicate with and support the child
    • Fails to respond to notice of adoption

The consent of a presumed father is not required for the child’s adoption unless he became a presumed father before the mother’s relinquishment, before consent becomes irrevocable, or before the mother’s parental rights have been terminated.

The consent of a birth parent is not necessary when the birth parent has:

  • Been judicially deprived of the custody and control of the child
  • Voluntarily surrendered the right to the custody and control of the child
  • Deserted the child without provision for identification of the child
  • Relinquished the child for adoption as provided in § 8700
  • Relinquished the child for adoption to a licensed or authorized child-placing agency in another jurisdiction