Every year, 135,000 children are adopted nationwide, with 59 percent representing the foster care system, 26 percent international adoptions, and 15 percent are voluntarily relinquished, American kids. It means that everyday adoption takes place even if you don’t see it.
Naturally, adopting a child is a joyous and most rewarding experience for a family as you celebrate the expansion. Nevertheless, the process of adoption is a complex one and requires guidance from a professional.
California has strict laws regarding the adoption process, making it complicated. However, you can simplify the process by understanding the available options and consulting with an adoption professional. At the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we are here to help prospective mothers and parents through this complex process.
Overview of California Adoption Laws
In general, adoption is the legal procedure of establishing a relationship between a legal parent and a child when the adopting parent is not the biological parent to the child. After completing the process, you, as the adoptive parents, obtain legal rights and responsibilities over the child like any other birth parent. The parent-child bond created through the process is permanent with a new birth certificate.
California Family Code Sec. 8500-9340 provides the laws that govern adoption in Los Angeles. You can adopt any unmarried minor not less than ten years younger than the adoptive parent as per the law. When the child is twelve years or above, they must give consent before adoption. As the person adopting, you must be ten years older than the child unless you are the uncle, brother, first cousin, sister, aunt, or stepparent. Remember, a home residency is not a requirement before adoption.
Further, adoptive parents are required to conduct thorough investigations, including background checks, to see if the child has any criminal records before adopting.
As per the Family Code, any single or married adult is qualified to adopt. If you are a stepparent, the law allows you to adopt your spouse’s child. A married person can also adopt on their own if the other spouse is incompetent or they are divorced.
The Different Adoption Options in California
When looking forward to a smooth adoption process, you must understand the law’s different options. The various adoption options in Los Angeles Include:
One of the commonly witnessed adoption options in Los Angeles and the whole of California is agency adoption. As per Family Code 8700, future parents can adopt domestically through a state agency like the California Department of Social Services. The benefit of using a state or private agency in adoption is that the process is regulated and licensed by the state.
Public adoption agencies usually focus on children that have been declared wards of the state because they have been abused before or orphaned. On the other end, private agencies handle domestic adoption cases involving children who have been placed in their care by their parents or expectant parents who wish to relinquish their parental rights.
During this type of adoption, the birth or biological parents give up the child for adoption through court order or fling a relinquishment. Once this happens, the child goes into the care of the agency. If there are any interested future parents, the agency does thorough investigations on these parents before approving or disapproving the adoption.
Remember, the agency you pick for the adoption will guide you through this emotional and complex process. Therefore, you should do your homework about the adoption agencies in your area and ensure you pick the right agency to streamline the process.
You can opt to bypass working with an agency to adopt directly in what is called independent adoption. Under this option, it’s the court that approves the adoption and not an agency. This option is the second most common after agency adoption, but it has many restrictions. You may want to consider working closely with a family law lawyer who understands the state laws and requirements governing the process to ensure the process sails through as planned.
Independent adoption usually involves finding a mother of a healthy infant willing to put up their child for adoption. This option’s benefit is that the biological parents are walked through all the relevant information, including their rights and responsibilities, before deciding on the parent to adopt their child. The adoptive parents also benefit by not being put on a waiting list for a child. Further, this option gives you control over the child you are about to adopt.
Note that although it’s a court and not an agency that approves adoption in these cases, after you have found a mother wishing to give up their child for adoption, you can let an adoption agency handle the rest. The steps involved in this form of adoption include filing an adoption petition, home investigation, and court recommendation.
Intercountry or international adoption is a challenging and complex adoption option. Adoption from foreign countries has become common in California.
What makes international adoption difficult is that the child must be eligible for particular immigration visas from the federal government. Further, you must comply with both California and foreign country’s adoption laws. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services must also classify the child as an orphan so that the adoptive parents re-adopts the child post intercountry adoption.
The process entails one home visit after child placement and a foreign adoption evaluation by a California court. As the adoptive parent, you will also need to present the necessary documents. The documents you will need include adoption petition forms, attested translations of all the intercountry adoption paperwork, a home investigation report, accounting reports, and the court’s final adoption order.
To prevent child abduction and adoption scams, the Hague Adoption Convention has been regulating international adoption as of 1st April 2008. The laws were designed to curb unethical practices against future parents, biological parents, and adoptive kids.
It’s challenging to find a Los Angeles lawyer who understands the foreign country’s adoption laws you are adopting from. For this reason, you should consider talking to a U.S. adoption agency specializing in intercountry adoption. These agencies have handled cases similar to yours in the past and will use their experience to ensure your process is successful. Additionally, they will ensure you follow the appropriate measures for every adoption case by adhering to the necessary rules and regulations.
Adoption by Same-Sex Couples and Stepparents
As per California Family Code 9000-9007, stepparents can lawfully adopt their spouse’s child. The same applies to lesbian and gay couples. California laws have no restrictions on who may adopt. If the child is 12 or older, their consent is necessary before adoption. Once the process is complete, the adoptive parents hold the rights and control over the child.
The least costly and complex option is adult adoption. Under the process, birth parents are not involved, plus no home investigation is required. Instead, it involves one adult consenting to become a legal child of another adult.
The Adoption Process
After reviewing all your adoption options, the next issue on your mind is how to start the process. The first step involves talking to your family lawyer and picking the most favorable type of adoption.
As mentioned earlier, you can choose to work independently or with an agency. Besides, the biological parents of the child you are adopting will have a say on how much control or contact they want with regards to the child.
Similarly, you must follow all the state regulations for the process, including home investigation and court approval. These adoption steps are further discussed below:
Locating an Adoptive Child
The adoption process begins by finding the child you want to adopt. Unless you have already identified the child you are interested in, you must find ways of locating one.
Adoption agencies and Social Services can help you find the child that is appropriate for your adoption needs. These agencies usually have children who are orphans or have been through abuse under their control. You can pose as a foster parent where a child is put under your care leading to adoption. However, foster relationships don’t always end up in adoption.
The other way to find a child to adopt is through surrogacy, which involves finding a surrogate mother to carry a pregnancy and bear a child on your behalf. These cases are common where, as adoptive parents, you want to maintain a genetic relationship between you and the child. However, sometimes the child carried by the surrogate mother might have no connection with the adoptive or prospective parents.
Alternatively, you can speak to your physician, lawyer, or religious organization to recommend where you can find an adoptive child. These people are in constant contact with society and know the children who might need or benefit from adoption.
Regardless of the adoption option, California requires that you conduct a home study as a prospective parent. The purpose of this investigation is to prepare and educate your family sufficiently about the adoption. This step also helps social workers gather information about your and your needs to find the perfect match. A home study is also intended to evaluate your fitness as an adoptive parent and whether you can provide a secure and healthy environment for the child's placement.
A home study can be overwhelming for you as a future parent because you fear being denied approval. However, it’s good to remember that these agencies and social workers are not looking for perfect parents. Instead, they want ready parents to parent real children. With guidance from an experienced family lawyer, you can face the home investigation confidently.
Adoption agencies require that you attend training classes geared towards the challenges of raising an adoptive child and the kind of child that matches your needs and one that you could parent effectively.
You should also expect several interviews from social workers. The interviews enable social workers to create a relationship with your family and understand it to find the perfect placement.
In this step, you should expect home visits from social workers focused on determining if your home meets the state licensing standards like safe water, working smoke alarms, and ample space for each kid.
A health statement is necessary to ensure that you and your family don’t have health conditions that might affect the adoptive child’s life expectancy. After a physical exam and determined you have a health condition, adoption agencies or courts will deny the approval.
An income statement is necessary to ensure you don’t have financial problems that might jeopardize the adoptive child. You don’t necessarily have to be rich, but you need to prove you can effectively plan and manage your finances. You will provide your income tax return forms and paycheck stubs to verify your income.
The relevant agencies will conduct background checks to ensure you don’t have a child abuse or criminal history because this will be risking the child’s life.
An adoption agency may request an autobiological statement, which is essentially a story about your life. Your life story gives the social workers an in-depth insight into your family and aid in writing the home study report.
To complete the picture they are painting about your family, social workers may request references that include names, addresses, and contact numbers of individuals who know your family well.
At the end of the study, social workers prepare a report that reflects their findings. The information introduces you to adopting agencies to assist in finding the right child for your family.
Filing an Adoption Petition in Court
You must file a petition in court, identifying all the parties involved, request a termination of parental rights by biological parents, and urge the court to grant you approval. A family lawyer is necessary when filing the petition because the legal process is a challenging one.
The Cost of Adopting
Being a parent comes with various expenses, but adoptive parents face more challenging situations because of the initial adoption costs. Many of them are afraid of adopting because of the expenses associated with the process. If you are concerned about the cost of adoption, you should know it ranges from $0 to $40,000.
The costs range from $0 to $2,500 for foster care adoption, $5,000 to $40,000 or more for private agency adoptions, and $8,000 to $40,000 and above for independent adoptions. If you opt for facilitated adoptions, you must be ready to part with money ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 or above. Intercountry adoption costs, on the other hand, range from $7,000 to $30,000.
Additionally, there are universal costs involved in the adoption process, like home study costs, which vary from $1,000 to $3,000. Besides, a family lawyer is required through the process, which means you will incur legal costs. The cost of legal representation varies from $2,500 to $12,000 and document preparation costs $500 to $2,500.
It’s challenging to estimate the cost of raising children because health and education costs keep rising. Planning your children’s future is, therefore, a challenging endeavor. However, if you talk to your family lawyer, they can provide you with a cost estimate of adopting.
Obtain Legal Help With Adoption
For a new parent or an adoptive child, adoption is a joyous and most rewarding life experience. Considering adoption’s impact on your family’s life, you must understand your role and legal rights. The method of adoption is exceptionally stressful despite the effect it has on the parties involved. You must have an experienced adoption lawyer by your side to streamline the process. A good lawyer will work to ensure your interests and those of the adoptive child is protected.
You will have endless questions regarding the adoption procedure. The best person to address these questions is your family law lawyer. A legal process will uncover some of the concerns you didn’t know existed.
Regardless of your case’s specifics or the role you play in the adoption process, it can be overwhelming and stressful. An experienced attorney understands all the courtroom’s insides and outsides, which increases the chances of adoption. The ruling by the court may affect you, your finances, and your family significantly. Therefore, you should do everything in your power to obtain a positive result.
A proficient adoption lawyer will walk you through the process step by step and spot the available options. An attorney’s goal is to represent your best interest and those of your adoptive child by ensuring a favorable ruling.
Find a Professional Adoption Lawyer Near Me
California witnesses more adoptions than other states nationwide, which means more adoptive parents and biological parents are looking for an adoption lawyer’s guidance. At the Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we are willing to help you through the adoption process by providing the advice you need to win the case and expand your family. Call us today at 310-695-5212 for a free consultation.