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What's involved in adopting my spouse's child in California?

If the husband or wife of a child's custodial parent wishes to adopt their son or daughter, then this process is referred to as a stepparent adoption. The California Department of Social Services generally requires for a couple to have been married at least one year before taking this step. The stepparent must fill out forms, undergo an investigation and attend a hearing in front of a judge before the adoption is approved.

Any stepparent looking to adopt their husband or wife's child will first need to get consent from the child's other biological parent to do so. If the other parent is unable to be located or unwilling to give their consent, then it may be necessary for you to first petition a judge to terminate their parental rights.

You'll receive a letter from the Probate Court Services Department soon after you submit your adoption petition. They'll have you compile a number of documents before you're able to schedule an appointment with them. Once they've been compiled, they'll review your file and assign an investigator to your case.

One of the first steps in the investigation is for them to perform a background check on you. They'll review your employment, child abuse and law enforcement records as part of this. They'll also ask you for three character references before interviewing you, your spouse and the child that you're looking to adopt.

The investigator will then draft a report including a recommendation for or against the adoption. They'll then forward it to the judge presiding over the case.

Soon after it has been submitted to them, the clerk will reach out to you letting you know that a hearing has been scheduled. The natural parent, stepparent and child are all required to be present for the hearing. It's there that the judge will let you all know whether the adoption has been finalized.

A number of factors may impact whether an adoption is approved including a stepparent's negative background check, difficulty in locating the child's other biological parent or their unwillingness to provide consent. You may want to consult with a Riverside adoption and guardianship attorney to learn about how to improve your chances of your request being approved.

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