Family Law Overview

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Carlsbad Adoption Attorney

Beginning a new family or expanding an existing one by adding a new member can be one of the most fulfilling experiences you can have in your lifetime. Many parents choose to grow their families through adoption.

Adopting parents cite many reasons for this decision, such as infertility, the potential for pregnancy complications, concern about passing down harmful genetic disorders, or a desire to care for children with special needs. In some cases, the parent is single, part of a same-sex couple, the relative of a parent who is unable to raise their child, or the stepparent or domestic partner of one of the child’s birth parents. Other times, adoption occurs simply because the couple recognizes that there are a sizable number of children who need homes and deserve to live healthy, happy lives in a supportive and loving environment.

While it is incredibly rewarding to accept a child into your home and help them thrive, adopting a child can also be exceptionally complicated. If you are a prospective mother or father considering adoption, the best way to streamline this process is to obtain legal representation from an experienced Carlsbad adoption attorney.

How Can I Adopt a Child in California?

California law requires that adoptive parents be single or married adults a minimum of ten years older than the child unless they obtain consent from a family member and approval by the court. If the child is twelve years of age or older, they must consent to the adoption. California allows adoption through a public or private agency, independent adoption, adopting through identification, international adoption, relative adoption, and stepparent/domestic partner adoption. Each type involves its own set of legal requirements and guidelines, but judges will always consider the best interests of the child when making adoption determinations.

How Does the Adoption Process Work in California?

The most common type of adoption, stepparent adoption, occurs when the new spouse of a parent has adopted the parent’s child from a previous partner. Because one of the biological parents retains legal parental rights, this process is more straightforward than other forms of adoption. However, stepparent adoption still involves legal aspects best handled by a Carlsbad adoption attorney.

Consider the following questions to determine the type of adoption you seek:

  • Were you involved in a marriage or domestic partnership with the birth parent when the child was born?
  • Are you still married or registered domestic partners?
  • Did your spouse or domestic partner give birth to the child, or did one or both of you arrange for a gestational surrogacy?

Answering yes to these questions means you will need a “stepparent adoption to confirm parentage.” This method does not require a social worker to draft a report before placement and does not require you to attend a court hearing. You must simply follow the first six steps below to become the child’s legal parent.

Answering no to any of the above questions means your case is a “stepparent/domestic partner adoption,” so you will be required to undergo a social worker investigation and attend a court hearing to finalize the adoption. In this case, you must follow all the steps below.

Adoption Steps

To complete the adoption process in California, you must:

  1. Obtain information about the adoption process to ensure you are beginning the right type of adoption case.
  2. Fill out court forms necessary for the adoption. If you are initiating a stepparent/domestic partner adoption, you will complete the following forms:
    • Adoption Request Form (ADOPT-200) notifies the judge you want to adopt the child.
    • Adoption Agreement Form (ADOPT-210) states that you agree to the adoption and, if the child is 12 years old or older, that they consent to the adoption. Fill out this form but do not add your signature until directed by the judge.
    • Adoption Order (ADOPT-215) is signed by the judge if they approve the adoption.


    If your case is a stepparent adoption to confirm parentage, you must complete the forms listed above and one of the two forms below, depending on your circumstances:

    • Declaration Confirming Parentage in Stepparent Adoption (ADOP-205) states how the child was conceived and whether the child has any other parents. Birth parents and adopting parents fill out their own separate versions of this form.
    • Declaration Confirming Parentage in Stepparent Adoption: Gestational Surrogacy (ADOPT-206) also states how the child was conceived and indicates the existence of other parents, but it is used only if the child was born through surrogacy outside of California and the birth state permitted a single legal parent to be named on the child’s birth certificate.
  3. Ask a Carlsbad adoption attorney or law firm to review the forms and ensure they are accurately completed before moving forward with your case.
  4. Make a minimum of two copies of your forms, all attachments, and any local forms you may have completed as part of your case.
  5. File your forms with the court clerk, and they will explain how the adoption process will work in your county. You must include a filing fee or request a fee waiver if you cannot afford to pay this fee.
  6. Discuss the adoption with the child. If the child is 12 years old or older, you must obtain their consent for the adoption before the judge finalizes the order.
  7. Have someone serve the adoption papers to the other birth parent. The Adoption Request Form will display the court date for the adopting hearing. If you are not in regular contact with the other birth parent, you must make every attempt to locate them and record the dates of your efforts and their results. If the other birth parent is deceased, you will be expected to notify the court in your adoption request and at the hearing and provide proof in the form of a death certificate.
  8. Obtain the other birth parent’s consent for the adoption. Even if you are the only parent listed on the child’s birth certificate, you are legally obligated to obtain the other parent’s consent for the adoption. By consenting, they are surrendering their parental rights to your current spouse or domestic partner. If you cannot locate the other parent and have evidence that you made every attempt to do so, the judge will typically terminate the parental rights of the other parent. If the other parent refuses to admit that they are the biological parent of the child, or if you are not sure about the identity of the other birth parent, you will need assistance from an adoption lawyer in Carlsbad.

    If the other parent refuses to agree to the adoption, you may still be able to adopt the child in the following situations:

    • The other birth parent has abandoned the child, meaning they have intentionally failed to contact the child or pay child support in the past year.
    • After serving the other parent with the Adoption Request, they fail to show up to the court hearing to object to the adoption.
    • The judge determines that approving the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
  9. Attend an interview with an investigator. The person completing the investigation and interview will typically act as a court investigator, licensed social worker, licensed family therapist, but the court clerk can tell you who should conduct the investigation in your county. This investigator will draft a report that summarizes their findings, file it with the court, and provide you with a copy.
  10. Obtain a court date from the court clerk for the adoption hearing.
  11. Attend the adoption hearing, bringing the child and all forms you have completed.

Why Do You Need an Attorney for an Adoption?

Adoption laws in California can be extremely complicated, and even seemingly straightforward adoption cases can become difficult. It is technically possible to adopt a child without legal guidance. However, securing legal representation from an experienced Carlsbad adoption attorney can guide you through the process and ensure you can effectively handle any difficulties that may arise. Specifically, they can help you:

  • Determine whether you are eligible to adopt the child
  • Inform you of the state’s adoption laws and how they apply to your case
  • Explain the adoption process and what to expect at each stage
  • Decide which documents you need to complete in your case
  • Prepare and file all documents completely, accurately, and on time
  • Offer advice for talking to the child about adoption
  • Explain the legal rights of the other birth parent
  • Assist in locating the other parent, communicating with them, and obtaining their consent for the adoption
  • Deal with other complications in your case, such as uncertainty about parentage, the inability to find the other parent, the other birth parent refusing to admit parentage or provide consent, or adopting a child conceived through artificial insemination
  • Represent you at the court hearing
  • Handle other legal issues like parentage, child custody, and child support

Begin the Adoption Process Today

Adopting a child is a serious decision and requires an equally serious approach to achieve the best results. If you are hoping to adopt your stepchild or become an adoptive family in the state of California, Paula D. Kleinman can help you understand what to expect during the process. As an experienced Carlsbad adoption attorney, I have spent over two decades helping family law clients find the right adoption solutions for their families. I offer compassionate, comprehensive legal services and work personally with all clients to handle their issues until they reach a satisfactory resolution. Contact us today to schedule a consultation regarding your adoption.

While the Covid-19 Shelter-In-Place Executive Orders is in place my office is fully functioning; thus I am available to prepare ex parte documents, Temporary Restraining Orders, and prepare filing to be filed when the Court opens. Please contact my office at 760-643-4114 to discuss further.