Orange County Stepparent Adoption Attorney

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Orange County Stepparent Adoption Attorney

Stepparent adoption should be an exciting time. For many families, it can feel like the final confirmation of a family dynamic that has existed for a while. Things are finally made official. Once the decision that a stepparent will adopt is made, everyone is usually excited to get the process going. Unfortunately, though, even something that should be ordinary can end up being complex and frustrating to work through. That’s why we do what we do at Cianci Law in southern Orange County. We’re excited for you to complete your adoption and confirm your family dynamic. We can help you navigate the bureaucratic difficulties that come with adoptions. Our firm can work to make a complex process go more smoothly for you. We are ready to help you get started on your Orange County stepparent adoption.

The Process

There are a few parts of the stepparent adoption process that are required in almost every circumstance, with a few exceptions. The general components of an adoption are:

  • Forms – Adoption court forms will need to be filled out based on the kind of adoption. Those forms will then be submitted to the court.
  • Papers – The legal parent who is not with the person applying to be the child’s stepparent will need to be notified of the desire to adopt. Also, if it is the father who needs to be notified and the father is not known, any alleged fathers will have to be notified.
  • Consent – Consent from both parents is required for the adoption to go through. Obviously, the parent with the adoptive stepparent will give consent. However, the issue can get a little more complex if the other parent has an objection to the adoption.
  • Home Study – A social worker will investigate the situation and make a recommendation on whether the adoption should be approved. This decision will be based on the child’s welfare.
  • Court Date – A court hearing, with the child in attendance, will occur when the judge is ready to finalize the adoption process. This is a special, touching part of the process, and one of our favorite things is to be able to witness these moments.

The process should be quick and easy if uncontested. However, it can often be complicated. From getting the forms done in the proper order and on time to getting proper consent, there can be complications along the way that can lead to delays. We can help with those issues. Cianci Law’s experience and expertise can help you through these steps efficiently and with as little hassle as possible.


In a stepparent adoption, there could be up to three parties who must consent. One is the child if they are over 12 years old. The other is the two birth parents. Obviously, the one who is with the prospective stepparent will consent. It is often with the other parents where consent may not be easily found.

If the Other Parent Doesn’t Consent

In general, if the other parent doesn’t wish to consent to the adoption, then the adoption must be halted. The exception to this is if the court orders that the other parent’s parental rights be terminated. Some of the ways their rights can be terminated, and the adoption allowed to proceed include:

  • The other parent has died
  • A form is submitted from the other parent stating that they are not the child’s biological parent
  • A waiver is submitted from the other parent stating that they do not wish to be involved with the adoption
  • You can’t find the other parent. You must be able to show the court that you made a reasonable attempt to find them. It is a good idea to document the efforts that you made.
  • You don’t know who the biological parent is but have made a reasonable effort to figure out who they are and where they are. This is also a matter where you will want to document your efforts so that you can present them to the court if you need to.
  • There is some other court order terminating the other biological parent’s parental rights.

If you can contact the parent and they are unwilling to consent or sign a waiver, it doesn’t mean that you are entirely unable to follow through with the adoption. How to approach the situation will depend upon whether the other parent is a presumed parent or an alleged father.

Presumed Parent

The presumed parent is the person who appears, from a litany of surrounding evidence, to be the parent of the child. This could mean that they are the biological father. However, even if they are not, they appear to have fulfilled some of the expectations of the role of a parent for a time. Some of the things that may identify a presumed parent include:

  • Their name appearing on the child’s birth certificate
  • Having been once married to the child’s mother
  • Lived with the child for a period of time
  • Supported the mother of the child through her pregnancy and afterward
  • Has, for some time at least, raised and provided for the child
  • Publicly proclaimed themselves to be the child’s parent

The mother of the child, having given birth, is also a presumed parent.

Alleged Father

The alleged father is someone who has been identified, including self-identified, as a potential father of a child. However, the alleged father has not done any of the things that a presumed parent would have done.

Terminating the Parental Rights

The mother must notify the alleged father of the petition to terminate their parental rights, at which point the alleged father has 30 days to respond and attempt to make their case for why they are the presumed father.

The rights of a parent may also be terminated if they have failed to pay child support or communicate with the child for at least one year. This could be deemed a willful failure to communicate or support, and their rights may be terminated when the adoption is finalized. In some circumstances, this could be deemed abandonment, which would require notifying the absent parent’s immediate relatives. There would then be an abandonment hearing prior to finalizing the adoption.

Another ground for the termination of rights may be parental unfitness. If the non-consenting parent has a reason why they should be considered unfit to parent, their rights may be terminated. Some possible reasons to be considered unfit include:

  • An addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • Incarceration
  • Child abuse

A stepparent adoption where the other parent won’t consent can be a very difficult situation. As your legal team, we can work to resolve the situation. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you find yourself in this situation.

Home Study

Another important part of the adoption process is the home study. In the case of a stepparent adoption, the home study may vary based on your circumstances. The child’s biological parent won’t be subject to the assessment. The purpose of the home study is to ensure that the child will be going to parents that are fit to provide and care for the child. Since, in most cases, the stepparent has already been acting as a parent, the home study is very unlikely to lead to any kind of issue. The kinds of things, though, that a social worker may choose to assess are:

  • Paperwork – The social worker may wish to verify certain information with paperwork. They may even ask you to give some background on yourself. You may also need to pass a background check.
  • Interviews – The social worker will probably want to interview the child’s birth parent, the stepparent, the child, and any other members of the household.
  • A Home Visit – The social worker may choose to visit the home just to see that it is fit for the child.
  • Adoption Education – Depending on the situation, the social worker may request that you take some relevant training, particularly if the child has medical issues.
  • Review – After the social worker has gathered and assessed all the information available, they will issue a report and make a recommendation regarding the adoption.

After the Adoption

It’s important to realize that, after the adoption, if you had any previous custody agreement with the other parent, that is terminated along with the termination of parental rights. This means that any visitation rights are revoked. It also means that they are no longer required to pay child support if they had been doing so.

You will receive a new birth certificate for the child, naming the adoptive parent as the child’s parent. You may also change the child’s name on the birth certificate, for instance, to have the last name match with an adoptive father’s last name.

Let Us Help Make Your Family Official

At Cianci Law, we know how eager blended families are to have the legality reflect the reality. We understand that a stepparent has usually been playing the role of parent for a while by the time they are ready to officially adopt. We want to help make the process as easy as possible for you. Whether you are ready to step into the adoption process, are already involved in it, or just want more information, contact us today.

Practice Areas





Family Law

Family Law



Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent Adoption

Estate Planning



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