Adoption in Southern California

What is Independent Adoption?



Independent adoption is a “private placement” in which the birth parent(s) place the baby directly with the adoptive parent(s). Generally the baby is placed at the time of discharge from the hospital after the birth. Independent adoption of a child is not restricted to children born only in California, as sometimes the prospective birth parent(s) are out of state. A Center for Children and Family Law, Inc. adoption attorneys are familiar with the process and requirements for a placement from another state so that this will not limit the options for the adoptive parents.

What is a Step-parent/Domestic Partner Adoption?


Independent Adoption is also utilized for the adoption of “older” children with a family member or close family friend who has developed a relationship with the child or children. Sometimes it is due to a catastrophic illness, or other circumstances where a relative has been involved as a primary caregiver to the child and the parent may be unable to care for the child, or unavailable for the child or children due to an extended absence such as incarceration in state or federal prison or abandonment. Independent adoption is also an option after an extended guardianship of a child or children under certain circumstances.
Step-parent adoption is when the legal parent has custody of a child and his or her spouse seeks to become the child's legal parent. Most typically the stepparent/domestic partner wants to adopt the child born to the spouse/domestic partner from a previous relationship or marriage.

The process for Stepparent/Domestic Partner adoption usually begins with the attorney preparing and filing the petition for adoption. An investigation is required of the prospective adoptive stepparent and will be conducted according to the protocol of the county of residence. The process varies from county to county and our office has developed excellent networking resources and collaboration with the various entities performing the investigations to help assure the best outcome for our clients.

The other step in a Stepparent Adoption is to either obtain the consent to the adoption from the biological (other) parent, obtain a waiver of parental rights or request that the court terminate the parental rights in the case of an absent parent.

We have achieved much success in working with the absent parent by treating them in a courteous and considerate manner and often are able to obtain consents. Our adoption attorneys are skillful in working out agreements for the provision of limited information or contact with the other parent about the child, which often makes the difference in obtaining a consent.

Before the adoption can be finalized either:

1. Both parents must consent to the adoption or
2. The biological father must waive his rights or
3. The court must terminate the person's parental rights.

Adoptions can also occur if the child was “abandoned.” This means the child was left without support or without communication by one or both parents for a period of time. The court looks into the interests of the child, and recognizes that parenting requires a commitment to the child, from the parent, not just a cursory or occasional attempt at support or a relationship with the child.

If the court considers the child to be abandoned then the parent(s) rights are terminated and the adoption can move forward to finalization.+

What is Adult Adoption?

In California the law permits the opportunity for two adults who are not related to one another to obtain a legal relationship with one another as parent and adult child through the process of adult adoption.

Adults often seek adult adoption to obtain a “legal relationship” of parent and child, when there is already a significant “unofficial” parent child relationship existing, such as in the case of a stepparent or other person that has provided a parental role in the young adult's life. The adult adoption may facilitate some of the complex issues involved with estate planning.

In an adult adoption, both parties enter into a written adoption agreement, and a petition is filed with the court. If either the adopting person, or adoptee is married, the consent of their spouse is also required.

In an adult adoption there is no requirement for a home study, and there is no requirement for the consent of the biological parents of the adoptee. The court does make inquiry as to the reason or purpose for seeking an adult adoption, which we include in the pleadings that are submitted to the court.

Adult adoptions can be completed fairly expediently as compared to the adoption of a minor.

What is involved in a Contested Adoption?

The circumstances regarding a “contested adoption” vary greatly and are analyzed on a case by case basis. A contested adoption situation can arise for example in the case of a stepparent adoption, the birth father does not agree to consent or waive his parental rights and the matter will be set for further hearing process/trial to pursue court action to terminate the parental rights. Many times however, through the process of skilled negotiations the attorney can work out an agreement between the parties and a settlement is reached prior to going through the entire trial process. Please feel free to contact our office for further information. Our adoption attorneys are experienced in adoption litigation matters which can involve the process to terminate the parental rights of birth parent or parents, or in representation of a child or guardian.+

What is an Adoption Set-Aside, and what is the process?

Adoption set aside in California usually refers to the vacation of the adoption for very limited and specific reasons and is very time specific. Usually the adoption set aside involves an adoption through an agency, either private or public and is limited to very specific circumstances. An extended consultation is required with the adoption attorney and a review of all records pertaining to the child so that the best strategy can be determined.

What is Foster Adoption?

Foster adoption usually involves a child who is in the care, custody and control of public social services agency and the children are dependents of the county or state system. The foster/adoptive parent usually provides foster care to the child while the agency/court offers services to the biological parent or parents as required by law, and if the child is not able to return to the parents within the prescribed time frame, the agency seeks termination of the parental rights of the biological parents. Once the child is freed for adoption, the agency makes the permanent decision for actual adoptive placement with the foster/adoptive parent(s) and informs them that they can seek the assistance of an Attorney for the filing and finalization of adoption the dependent child(ren).

In California the adoption petition is usually filed and finalizes in the county where the child was made a ward. Sometimes, relatives are located in other areas of California and the children may be adopted in their county of residence. We have experience in working with many of the social services agencies of the other counties in California.

What is Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)?

In certain cases, a child may be able to gain U.S. Citizenship by obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status under the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J).

Does this Process Occur in Immigration Court?

In order to petition for this Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, certain findings must be made by a state family, probate, or dependency court. These state courts do not make immigration orders. The state courts must make certain initial findings which allow a minor to apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

We assist families in obtaining the necessary initial findings in state courts. These findings then must be taken to an immigration attorney or specialist for filing with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

What is Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC)?

The Interstate Compact on Placement of Children (ICPC) is the agreement made between all the states and corresponding laws regulating the adoption of children between states. Before a child can be taken across state lines for the purpose of adoption, each state's ICPC office must approve the placement and arrangement. The adoption placement is then monitored by the ICPC offices until the adoption is finalized or dismissed. This process can be complex and requires careful analysis of each state's individual requirements as well as the requirements of ICPC. For more information please contact our office.

Termination of Parental Rights

Termination of parental rights will be addressed in the context of Family Law and not the Juvenile Dependency Court. Termination of parental rights is not granted by the Court as a result of a request or by mutual agreement of the parents who are seeking to solve disputes regarding support or visitation matters.

Termination of parental rights by order of the Court is a permanent action that severs the parent-child relationship, in the context of serving the best interests and welfare of the child. Public Policy regarding children presumes that “best interests” would mean contact, relationship and support from both parents, in absence of parental unfitness.
Parental rights may be terminated by the court when:

  • the birth parent(s) voluntarily relinquish their rights to their child to an adoption agency, or place the child in an independent adoption situation, for the purpose of adoption. If the birth parents are not married and the mother wished to place her child for adoption, a thorough assessment of the circumstances and identification of the potential birth father or fathers by the adoption attorney is essential in determining the course of action. A birth father (either alleged or presumed) may voluntarily waive any rights to the child or have an opportunity to consent; or
  • an alleged father has failed to support the birth mother and child emotionally and financially during the pregnancy and thereafter and there is an independent or step-parent adoption pending; or
  • a presumed parent(s) has failed to communicate or support the child for a period of six months and left the child in the care of a non-parent and an independent adoption is pending; or
  • a presumed parent has failed to communicate or support the child for a period of one year and left the child in the care of the other parent and a step parent adoption is pending; or
  • a legal guardian seeks to adopt the child and has had legal guardianship of the child for at least two years and the court determines it would be in the child's best interest to be adopted by the guardian taking into account the nature and extent of the relationship between a child and the birth parent, the guardian, any siblings, and all factors relating to the best interest of the child.
  • emancipation of a minor is granted, when the minor at least 14 years of age, petitions the court for emancipation and meets the requirements, receives written consent or permission from the parents, and the court finds that granting of the petition for emancipation would not be contrary to the minor's best interests.