In California, there are four basic kinds of adoptions through the Family Court. Step-parent Adoptions, Relative Adoptions, Independent Adoptions and Adult Adoptions. In almost every county in the state, the judges enjoy presiding over adoption cases because of their positive nature. Some judges will actually bring in a cake or balloons to the final hearing and always welcome family and friends to attend.
Step-Parent adoptions are more easily obtainable than the other types involving minor children. Because one of the legal parents retains their rights, the courts require a less stringent investigation into the parties, their backgrounds and homes. Step-parent adoption investigations are all done at the county level. In these cases the biological parent, who retains all of her or his parental rights, agrees to their current, legal spouse becoming the other legal parent, with the same rights and responsibilities a biological parent.
One of the necessary requirements to being granted a step-parent adoption is the termination of the parental rights of the other biological parent. In many cases, the other bio-parent does not oppose the adoption, and signs a consent form, or is deceased, so no actual court hearing is needed to terminated his or her rights. In some cases there is opposition by the other bio-parent and the adopting step-parent must prove to the court that the other bio-parent has “abandoned” the child. If the opposing bio-parent is indigent (poor), and makes a specific request to the court, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the opposing bio-parent. Should this happen, it may be wise to hire an attorney to represent the parent wishing to adopt.
Each county appoints an “investigator” to look into the case and the background of the adopting parent, and the investigator makes a recommendation to the court as to whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child. There are some costs associated with the county investigation and, in some cases, these costs are assessed on a sliding scale, depending on the parties’ ability to pay.
Relative and Independent Adoptions are where either a blood relative or a non-family member of the child or children is asking to adopt. In these cases, the State Department of Social Services Adoption Department handles all aspects of the investigation. These cases can also include recommended psychological counseling of one or both biological parents even if they are agreeing to the adoption. If the adoption is recommended by the state, the family court judge will make the requested order.
The cost of the investigation by the state is significantly higher than the cost to investigate a step-parent adoption at the county level. As in all adoptions of minor children, relative and independent adoptions require the termination of the bio-parents’ parental rights before the adoption can take place, either by consent, or after a court hearing.
Adult Adoptions are usually far easier and less expensive than the those involving minor children. The adopting parent and the adoptee obviously have to agree to the adoption, as does the spouse of the adopting parent. Because the adoptee is over the age of 18 years, no consent is needed from the adoptee’s biological parents (unless the spouse of the adopting parent is also a biological parent), because their parental rights ended automatically, by law, when the former child became a legal adult. In most cases, no formal investigation is ordered. The court relies on the testimony the parties give at the final hearing on which to base final order of adoption. Adult adoptions often occur because of a close relationship between the adopting parent and child, and the older person’s wish that their adoptive child receive benefits or an inheritance.