Understanding California Adoption Laws

Understanding California Adoption Laws

Adoption proceedings can be lengthy and quite often emotional. Understanding California adoption laws before beginning the process will make the experience less difficult. Knowing the steps involved, the paperwork required and the time frame expected can help reduce the stress and allow potential adoptive parents to be better prepared.

The adoption process is composed of two legal proceedings. The first part creates a legal parent and child relationship between the child and a non-biological father and/or mother. The second part of the process terminates the legal rights of one or more biological-birth parents. The termination of parental rights usually presents the most difficulty in an adoption.

California has a series of rules in place that involve who must give consent and what can be done without consent. Termination of parental rights should be done with consent. Most states do not terminate parental rights without serious consideration and California is no exception. Consent can also be required from the child or prospective parent’s spouse.

Adoption consent rules:

  • In the state of California, if the child is over the age of 12, the child must agree to the adoption process.
  • If the adoptive parent is married, and not legally separated from their spouse, the spouse must also agree to the adoption.
  • In direct adoptions, a birth mother cannot give consent until after she has been released from the hospital where she gave birth.
  • Native American parents cannot give consent until the child is at least 10 days old.
  • If a birth parent is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate will be needed.
  • If a birth parent cannot be found, steps must be taken to prove that a reasonable attempt was made. Accurate records of all attempts to find a missing birth parent must be retained. A judge will decide if sufficient steps were taken.
  • If the biological parent is unknown, or does not admit to paternity, consent may not be required. In this case, legal counsel is advised.
  • If a child was conceived through an anonymous donor, sperm or egg, documentation may be requested from the doctor or medical center.
  • In some situations, consent can be revoked within 30 days of being granted.

Termination of parental rights:

  • California may terminate parental rights without consent if the court decides the parent or parents have abandoned the child. This involves a complete lack of contact for over one year.
  • If the birth parent was properly served with the request forms, but fails to show up for the court appointment to dispute consent, consent is implied.
  • A judge may decide that the adoption is in the child’s best interest.

Adoption processes vary depending on the type of adoption. One of the easiest and most common types of proceedings in California is a stepparent or domestic partner adoption. In this process, the spouse or domestic partner becomes the parent of their partner’s child. It is important to note that the state does treat registered domestic partners in the same manner as legally married couples in adoption proceedings.

Steps for simple adoption proceedings:

  • Court forms must be filled out and then reviewed.
  • Completed forms are filed with the court clerk.
  • Papers must be served on the birth parent.
  • Consent must be obtained from the birth parent.
  • An interview and investigation will be completed.
  • A court date will be scheduled and the adoption hearing will be held. The child must be brought to the hearing.

Agency adoptions, independent adoptions and international adoptions follow many of the same procedures. With a licensed agency or California Department of Social Service adoption, much of the paperwork will be completed by the agency. Papers do not need to be served to a birth parent. In these situations, consent for the termination of parental rights is already assumed. However, it is highly recommended that the consent be investigated.

Private adoptions are also covered under the rules for agency proceedings. In the case of a private or independent adoption, legal counsel is advised. Native American adoptions have two additional forms that are required by the court. Both Form ADOPT-220 and Form Adopt-225 must also be completed. Federal laws mandate that copies be sent to the Secretary of the Interior. In all adoption processes, two witnesses must sign the consent forms.

Documenting all of the steps taken in trying to locate a missing birth parent can make or break the proceedings, even years after an adoption is finished. Proper completion of all required paperwork is critical for a successful adoption process. There are numerous forms needed and these must be filed correctly. Using a service to assist with these important steps will be well worth the time involved. Not only will the correct forms be completed but they will also be reviewed to ensure a smooth adoption.