One of the most significant moments in a child's life is being adopted by a step parent. Even if the child is too young to fully understand it at the time, he or she will someday realize it meant that "Stepdad" or "Stepmom" wanted to make the total commitment as a parent and officially be "Dad" or "Mom." For many families, particularly in the eyes of a child, it 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 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 Randy will explain, the private agency option is much faster and more convenient, and can often result in the adoption being completed in only 3-4 months.
What Documents does Orange County Require for a Step Parent Adoption?
There are several documents that the agency or court investigator will require. Randy 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, Randy as your attorney, and any guests you wish to invite. It is a private hearing and is closed to the public.
What Legal Pleadings does Orange County require for me to adopt my Step Child?
The process will start with Randy preparing the Adoption Request, and several required attachments. Randy 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 actions by Randy are covered for the flat fee of $1,500.)
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 Randy 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. (Randy has an "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.)
What are Randy's Qualifications to do our stepparent adoption?
Randy has 32 years experience as an adoption attorney, is a member of the Academy of California Adoption Lawyers, has a Better Business Bureau rating of A+, a five star Avvo client rating, is profiled on Wikipedia, has an "AV - preeminent" rating by Martindale-Hubbell (the highest possible rating and earned by less than 3% of attorneys nationwide), and has authored many popular adoption books including STEP PARENTING: 50 One-Minute DOs & DON'Ts (one of Amazon's most popular in the "step parenting books" category). Read client reviews and verify credentials.
2030 Main Street #1300
Irvine, CA 92614
It's easy to get started. . .
STEP ONE: Call Randy to get briefly acquainted and describe your case (949-260-4705). He will be happy to answer a question or two. For a full consultation, however (about 30 minutes), you need to first fill out a short questionnaire, which gives him the needed details about your case to fully advise you. There is no charge for this consultation.
STEP TWO: Randy will email you his short and simple retainer. Unless your case has a non-consenting absent parent, or other legal problem, it will specify the flat fee of $1,500 (which includes the filing fee and all costs - so is all inclusive).
STEP THREE: Upon receiving your retainer, Randy will have the Adoption Request and required attachments prepared and emailed to you to sign within 1-2 days. 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 12-15 weeks later.
2030 Main Street #1300 • Irvine, CA 92614 • 949-260-4705