step-parent adoption

Step-Parent Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights by Cassandra Hearn


The United States Constitution and state laws all protect a parent's right to access and information about their child. These rights and responsibilities are often set down in writing in the form of a child custody order that provides for visitation, access, and child support. However, sometimes one parent disappears, is no longer a fit parent, or simply wishes to give up his or her parenting responsibilities. A step-parent adoption can bring an end to one parent-child relationship and begin a new one.


The first step in this process is termination of the parental rights of the offending parent. The most simple, inexpensive, and quick way to accomplish this is for the parent to agree to terminate his or her parental rights. For this to occur, he or she must sign a very specific set of forms, in front of a notary, agreeing to relinquish all parental rights, forever.


If the offending parent is not willing to agree to relinquish parental rights, then a petition to involuntarily terminate parental rights must be filed. California requires specific grounds for termination of parental rights be alleged and proved, and the grounds available are different in a step-parent adoption than if, for example, the parental rights of both parents are being terminated. In a step-parent adoption situation, the offending parent's parental rights may be involuntarily terminated for abandonment. Abandonment in this context means that the offending parent has left the child in the other parent's care for at least a year without contacting or providing any support for the child. The offending parent must have also intended to abandon the child. If the offending parent has only made scattered or sporadic attempts at contact, that will not necessarily prevent the court from terminating the parental rights for abandonment.


After the termination of parental rights is accomplished, then it is time to move on to the step-parent adoption. Your attorney will file an adoption petition with the court. A social worker will need to perform a home study and a background check to make sure that the home is fit for the child. These findings will be filed with court, and a final hearing will be scheduled. The step-parent, the remaining parent, and the child will all need to attend court at the final hearing where the adoption will be finalized.


As noted above, parental rights are protected by a variety of laws, including the United States Constitution. Termination of Parental Rights and adoptions are complex areas of law, with adverse effects if not completed correctly. Contact our office today at 619-800-0384 to allow us to help you navigate your step-parent adoption.