The adoption process in California varies based on the type of adoption you’re pursuing. For example, a stepparent who is adopting his or her spouse’s child will have to take different steps than a couple adopting a newborn will take – but generally, every adoption follows a similar course. Typically, the adoption process includes:
- Finding an adoption attorney
- Filling out court forms
- Filing the forms with the court
- Getting consent from the birth parent, in some cases
- Being interviewed and submitting to an investigation
- Getting a court date and going to an adoption hearing
The Adoption Process in California: The Basics
Most adoptions follow similar steps. Your attorney can give you case-specific guidance, but here’s a closer look at the most basic steps so you know what to expect.
#1. Finding an Adoption Attorney
For many people, the journey to growing a family begins with hiring an adoption attorney. Your attorney can walk you through the entire process, from start to finish, and she’ll answer your questions every step of the way.
#2. Filling Out Court Forms
Your attorney will fill out the court forms required by California law. The forms you need to file depend on the type of adoption you’re using. The most common types include stepparent or domestic partner adoptions, independent adoptions, agency adoptions and international adoptions. Each has its own requirements.
Related: California adoption requirements
#3. Filing the Forms With the Court
Your attorney will file all the necessary forms for you. Usually, they go to the court clerk in your county. (Don’t worry – your attorney will make sure that you have copies of everything.)
#4. Getting Consent From the Birth Parent or Parents, if Necessary
Sometimes birth parents relinquish custody of their children. When that happens, you don’t have to get their consent. However, if you’re adopting your stepchild or your domestic partner’s child, you will most likely have to get the child’s other parent’s or guardian’s consent.
You may still be able to adopt the child without the parent’s or guardian’s consent if:
- The other birth parent has abandoned the child for more than a year, and he or she has not seen or spoken with the child or paid any child support
- Your attorney serves the other birth parent with an Adoption Request form, which requires the other birth parent to show up in court on a specific date to object to the adoption
- The judge in your case determines that your adoption is in the child’s best interest
#5. Being Interviewed and Submitting to an Investigation as Part of the Adoption Process in California
You’ll have to go through a home study, be interviewed by an investigator (often a social worker) and go through a criminal background investigation as part of the adoption process in California.
The home study is designed to ensure that you’re prepared to bring a child into your family, and the requirements might vary based on the type of adoption you’re pursuing. Additionally, you must agree to a fingerprint-based state and federal background check, and the government will check for your name in the Child Abuse Central Index. Some convictions will bar you from adoption, such as anything that requires you to register as a sex offender, infliction of injury on a spouse (or cohabitant, or parent of a child), or endangering a child.
#6. Getting a Court Date and Attending an Adoption Hearing
After the court receives a complete report from the investigator assigned to your case, you’ll get a court date for an adoption hearing. Your attorney will keep you updated if there are any changes, and she’ll go with you when you appear in court, as well.
At the adoption hearing, the judge will issue his or her decision. You must bring all the forms you have filled out (remember, your attorney will make sure you have plenty of copies). The child must also attend the hearing.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About the Adoption Process in California?
If you’re considering adoption, whether you’re going through an agency or adopting a stepchild or other relative, we may be able to help you. Call us at (209) 546-6246 to set up a consultation to talk about your case and get answers to all your questions today.