A step parent adoption is one of the most significant moments in a child's life, knowing that "Stepdad" or "Stepmom" wanted to make the total commitment as a parent and officially be "Dad" or "Mom." For many families, adopting a stepchild - particularly in the eyes of the child - is the final step in becoming a true family. Step parent adoption also provides legal security in case something were to happen to the existing parent, as without a step parent adoption the stepparent has few guaranteed parenting rights. The information below is for stepparents residing in Orange County.
Step Parent Adoption in Orange County - Adopting a Step Child Step-by-Step
In Orange County, the step parent adoption process starts with filing an Adoption Request. The basic requirements are that you live in Orange County, the stepparent is married to one of the child's parents, and that the child is under age 18 when the court finalizes the adoption. If aged 18 or over, different laws apply and it is done as an adult adoption.
Which Orange County courthouse would handle my step parent adoption?
Orange County has many Superior court locations, but uses only one for step parent adoption filings, the Lamoreaux Justice Center at 341 The City Drive South, in Orange. The filing fee in Orange County for an Adoption Request is $20.
Does Orange County Require a Home Study to adopt a step child?
No. A detailed home study, as is done in traditional adoptions (such as adopting a non-relative newborn) is not required in a step parent adoption. However, in a step parent adoption there is what is termed an "investigation" which involves much less time, paperwork and cost than a home study. The person assigned to do a step parent investigation in Orange County is a court investigator. The county investigation fee is $700. Few family law attorneys seem to know that a new law gives you the option to use a private adoption agency instead. The cost is the same, but as the attorney will explain, the private agency option is much faster and more convenient, and can often result in the adoption being completed in only 3-5 months.
What Documents does Orange County Require for a Step Parent Adoption?
There are several documents that the agency or court investigator will require. The attorney will list them for you and they are easy to obtain (ex. the child's birth certificate, your marriage license, et cetera).
Who can come to the finalization hearing? Does the absent parent have to be there?
The absent parent does not attend the finalization hearing, and is not even given notice of it. He or she will have already consented to the adoption or had the court terminate their rights.
The final hearing is "your" moment, and no one is there is except for you and the child, your attorney, and any guests you wish to invite. It is a private hearing and is closed to the public. Normally this is done in the courthouse. The final hearing is usually an in-person hearing, but for some situations the court may approve the parties appear by video through their computer at home/work.
What Legal Pleadings does Orange County require for me to adopt my Step Child?
The process will start with the attorney preparing the Adoption Request, and several required attachments. Randy or Allen will also prepare the Consent to Adoption for the absent parent, if he or she is available. There are additional documents required to set the final hearing and at the finalization hearing itself, and to generate the child's new birth certificate. (All the above legal services are covered for the flat fee of $2,500.)
Is a New Birth Certificate created to Change Our Child's Last Name?
Yes. The amended birth certificate is like a free benefit to a step parent adoption. It replaces the original one and a new amended one is created to take it's place. The new one can make any changes desired in the child's name (such as changing the child's last name to match the stepfather's) and replacing the absent parent's name with that of the step parent.
What Are a Birth Father's Rights?
Birth fathers' rights are very complicated. For that reason, it is an area of law best to discuss with the attorney after he knows more about your case. The short answer, however, is that there are different categories of birth fathers, each with different rights. If the absent parent can't be found, or won't consent, an action to terminate their parental rights will be required. (You can read our "advanced Q & A" page on subjects such as this, but it is likely easier for you to learn the same facts during your initial consultation.) Of course, sometimes the "absent parent" is the mother, and it is the stepmom who is the adopting parent, but in 95% of stepparent adoptions it is the stepfather who is the adopting parent. Either way, either the consent of the absent parent is required, or a court action terminating their parental rights determining their consent is not required.
What are your Qualifications to do our stepparent adoption?
Hello, my name is Randy Hicks and I've limited my law practice to adoption for over 36 years. But several years ago as I got older - just look at all those wrinkles in my picture! - I started sending all my stepparent cases to my friend and fellow adoption attorney, Allen Hall. So please consider my information on this page as my introduction from you to Allen, so both you and he can benefit from then protocols of my established Stepparent Adoption Center.
I met Allen many years ago when we were actually opposing lawyers on a case. I was so impressed with him, both as an attorney and as a nice person, that we began working together - to this point where now I just send all stepparent adoption cases straight to him. (When you complete the Stepparent Adoption Questionnaire, it goes straight to Allen, independent of me.)
About Allen Hall. Unlike most attorneys who go straight from college into law school, Allen has had a lot of valuable life experience prior to graduating cum laude from Thomas Jefferson Law School. He served in the Air Force, then was a police officer before being injured in the line of duty and forced to retire early.
He began his own law practice focusing on family law and criminal law, including handling contested stepparent adoptions (for the cases that have contesting absent parents). Allen does about 75 stepparent adoptions a year, which likely places him as the most-selected stepparent adoption attorney in California.
Allen is popular for his high ethics towards his clients, legal skill in this unique legal field, and maintaining the same low flat fee that I established when I created the Stepparent Adoption Center many years ago. Please go online and read his clients' glowing reviews in their 5-star Google, Yelp and Avvo ratings.
Allen is married and is the father of three children. His daughter has followed the family tradition of Allen and his wife and is serving in the US Armed Forces. When not practicing law, Allen is active in his church and likes to coach youth sports.
If you have a question about stepparent adoption not covered on the stepparent adoption page for your county, you are welcome to email a question to [email protected], but the normal first step is to complete the Stepparent Adoption Questionnaire to tell him more about your case and desires, click "submit" and Allen will contact you promptly to schedule a free, detailed 30-40 minute consultation to review the stepparent process (laws, procedures, costs, timetable) and discuss your case, via a Zoom meeting. Allen handles cases throughout Southern California (specifically Orange and San Diego Counties.)
Law Office of Allen Hall
402 W. Broadway, Suite 1270
San Diego, CA 92101
It's easy to get started. . .
STEP ONE: Just complete the QUESTIONNAIRE, to give needed details about your case to fully advise you, click "submit," then wait to be contacted to schedule your free, detailed Zoom consultation.
STEP TWO: When you are ready to start, return the short and simple retainer. Unless your case has a non-consenting absent parent, or other legal problem, it will specify the flat fee of $2,500 (which includes the filing fee and office costs (for most counties) - so is all inclusive).
STEP THREE: Upon receiving your retainer, Allen will usually have the Adoption Request and required attachments prepared and emailed to you to sign within 5 business days or less. He will then file it with the court and the process begins. He will continue to work with you until he appears with you in court to finalize the adoption, usually about 3-5 months later.