What You Need to Know About Adoption Laws in California

Navigating state rules regarding adoption can be overwhelming. Although the California Family Code in sections 8500-9340 describes each regulation necessary to correctly adopt in California, it can be difficult to dissect. Here is everything a prospective parent needs to know about adoption laws in California.

There are also several different types of adoption that require specific rules. California offers four distinct types of adoption: stepparent/domestic partner adoption, independent adoption, agency adoption, and international adoption.

Overview of Adoption Laws in California

California law requires some general requirements in order for an individual to be eligible to adopt. Prospective parents must be at least ten years older than the child they are hoping to adopt. (The only exception to this law is if the prospective adoptive parent is the child’s stepparent or immediate relative). Additionally, if the child is over the age of twelve, their consent to adoption by that child is necessary before they are allowed to be taken into custody. Additionally, all prospective parents must complete and pass a home study and a criminal background check before they can qualify as eligible to adopt in California.

What is a California Home Study?

An adoption home study is a basic assessment of the prospective parent’s eligibility. A home study is required to ensure that the child is entering a safe and stable home and also to help the prospective parent prepare for adoption and parenthood.

Every California adoption home study will consist of the following:

  • A household visit with all of the residents present
  • Individual interviews with the adoptive parent (and their spouse if applicable)
  • Criminal background checks
  • Physical exam of the applicant
  • Paperwork regarding health, employment, finances, personal documents, etc

There is a possibility for the adoption application to be rejected if the prospective parent does not pass the qualifications required by the adoption home study. Every adoption home study will be immediately refused if any individual living in the home has been convicted with a felony for child abuse/neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against a child, or any crime regarding violence, rape, sexual assault, or homicide. Moreover, the adoption will be declined if any adult living in the home has been convicted of a felony within the past five years for physical assault, battery, or a drug or alcohol-related offense.

More information on what to expect from a California home study and how to prepare for it can be found on the California Welfare Information Gateway website.

Four Types of Adoption in California

There are four types of ways to adopt a child in California. Here are all of the ways a prospective parent can adopt:

1. Stepparent/domestic partner adoption

  • The spouse or domestic partner of the child’s parent adopts the child.
  • The couple must be legally married or registered as domestic partners.
  • The most common type of adoption.
  • Usually simpler than other adoptions because one of the child’s birth parents still remains their legal parent.

2. Independent adoption

  • There is no adoption agency or the Department of Social Services is not part of the adoption cases:
    • In these cases, if the existing and adoption parents agree, the parental rights of the existing parents do not have to be terminated.

Related: Private Adoption in California: Is It Right For Me?

3. Regular agency adoption

  • California Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency is a part of the adoption case.

4. International adoption

  • The child adopted was born in another country.

In independent, regular agency, and international adoption, the court will end the birth parents’ parental rights to the child and the adoptive parents will become the child’s new legal parents.

When is Consent of the Birth Parent Necessary to Adopt?

The consent of both birth parents is almost always necessary until the child reaches twelve years old, at which age they are legally able to give consent on their own. However, there are some situations where the court may overrule this and relinquish the birth parents’ parental rights without their consent.
Here are some scenarios where consent of the birth parent is not necessary:

  • The birth parent has been judicially deprived of custody of the child.
  • The birth parent has voluntarily surrendered the right to custody of the child.
  • The birth parent has deserted the child without provision for identification of the child.
  • The birth parent has relinquished the child for adoption. ·
  • The birth parents have relinquished the child for adoption to a licensed or authorized. child-placing agency in another jurisdiction pursuant to the law of that jurisdiction.

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If you have any more questions on adoption laws in California, contact us. Get your free consultation with one of our experienced Family Law Attorneys today!