Considerations When Adopting a Stepchild in California

Adopting family law legal adviceyour spouse’s child is a wonderful way to show your love and devotion to your stepchild. It can increase a child’s self-esteem, sense of belonging, and family bond. The positive impact of a loving stepparent is even greater when the child does not already have a close relationship with both his natural parents. Studies show children with two active parents perform better academically and are physically and emotionally healthier. However, adopting a child is not a decision that should be made hastily. There are legal, financial, and emotional considerations to keep in mind before making this lifelong decision.

Legal Significance of Stepparent Adoption

Stepparents, although they hold a special place in their stepchildren’s lives, are not granted the same legal rights and responsibilities as legally recognized parents. Adoption guarantees you permanent legal and financial responsibility for the child, even if your spouse passes away or you split up. Your stepchild’s birth certificate will be amended to show you as the legal parent. If you and/or the child want, you can change the child’s name to match your own. After an adoption is finalized, you will be granted legal decision making authority. This gives you the ability to make important decisions regarding your stepchild, such as medical care, religious observance, and education decisions.

When a child’s primary custodial parent dies, custody of the child could be awarded to grandparents or other family members before a stepparent. Adoption makes it much easier for you to retain custody of your stepchild should your spouse pass away. If you and your spouse ever separate or divorce, you should be able to secure some visitation and/or custody rights to the child.

Financial Significance of Stepparent Adoption

Adopting your stepchild means giving them access to financial benefits like inheritance, health insurance coverage, and survivor benefits. This is a positive incentive for many blended families to pursue stepparent adoption, but there could be some negative consequences as well. If the child is receiving child support payments from a biological parent, these payments will cease once the biological parent agrees to the adoption (thereby terminating his parental rights).

Your financial responsibility to the child you adopt does not end, even if your marriage to his parent does. If you and your spouse split up, you could end up paying child support.

Stepparent Adoption Laws in California

In California, stepparents are offered an easier, streamlined path to adoption, but there are some rules to qualify for a stepparent adoption. To adopt your significant other’s child, you must be married (or registered domestic partners). Because adoption will terminate the rights of the child’s other parent, you must be able to demonstrate that the child’s recognized parent: (1) is deceased, (2) is unknown, or (3) consents to the adoption and willing to terminate legal rights to the child. If the child has been abandoned by his other parent, the judge can decide if terminating the absent parent’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child. Occasionally, a stepparent adoption will be contested. Contested adoption cases are more complicated and typically require the counsel of an experienced adoption attorney.

Adoption Attorneys in Orange, CA

If your family is considering stepparent adoption, reach out to the adoption and family law attorneys at R & S Law Group, LLP. We can provide as little or as much assistance as you need for your case to go quickly and smoothly. Call us today at (949) 825-5245.