Santa Barbara Stepchild Adoption Attorney
When you marry someone who already has children, you become an inextricable part of those kids’ lives. Legally-speaking, a stepparent has no custody rights and may not have the authority to make decisions in their stepchildren’s lives or take custody of them if their parent passes away. To secure parental rights over your stepchildren, you may need to consider adopting them.
In California, there is a separate process for stepchild adoption that allows you to complete these adoptions much more quickly and easily than in other adoption cases. To discuss the legal effects and benefits of adopting a stepchild and get the legal process started, talk to the Santa Barbara stepchild adoption attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today. Our number is (805) 643-5555. If, instead, you are seeking custody rights over a stepchild without adoption, please see our Santa Barbara stepchild custody page.
Pros and Cons of Adopting a Stepchild in California
After marrying someone with stepchildren, you may quickly notice the difficulties of parenting without legal custody rights. You may not have the legal authority to make decisions about your stepchildren’s education, healthcare, religion, or other areas of their lives, which can make it very difficult to parent. Especially if you have a blended family, your spouse may also struggle with these same issues, and creating family unity may be difficult. Adopting your stepchildren may help alleviate many of these problems.
Adoption allows you to become a child’s legal parent for all intents and purposes. This means that you would be given all parental rights and custody rights afforded to a birth parent such as the right to choose your child’s religion, the right to change their last name to match yours, the right to decide where they go to school, and even the right to have your name on their birth certificate.
However, adoption is not to be taken lightly. Adoption is permanent, and you will be the child’s legal parent moving forward. This means that should your spouse die, you will likely take over full parenting responsibilities of the children, even if their other birth parent is still alive. It also means that in the event of a divorce, you will have the right to claim custody rights, but you will also potentially have the financial responsibility of paying child support.
Process for Stepchild Adoption in California
Before you can adopt your stepchild, you must first have the court sever the parental relationship with their other birth parent. Your spouse will remain the legal parent, but children can typically only have 2 legal parents, so you will need to have the other parent’s rights terminated. In many cases, this is done voluntarily with the birth parent appearing in court and consenting to the adoption.
If the child’s other parent does not consent to the adoption, the court may still terminate their rights anyway. Courts prefer cohesive, “traditional” family structures and may be willing to order a birth parent’s parental status taken away in favor of a stepparent’s adoption if it means the children will have two parents living in the same household. This can be quite contentious, and the birth parent will often have a lawyer represent them to fight the adoption, and the court may have to make a tough decision. In most cases where the other parent has a history of abuse, drug use, alcohol abuse, or crime, the judge will rule in favor of adoption.
To get the adoption moving through the courts, you must fill out paperwork. Your lawyer can help you with these forms and with getting your case filed. After filing the proper paperwork and notifying the other parent of the case, you can have your case scheduled for a hearing. After the hearing, the court can finalize your adoption and you can take full custody of your stepchild.
At the end of this process, you will have full parental rights as though you were the child’s birth parent. This means that any further legal issues regarding your custody rights will be handled as they would for any birth parent. If you and your spouse are later divorced, you can go to court to seek custody of the children or spousal support payments from the adoptive parent. You may also go to court and file to have the stepchild’s last name changed to match yours.
Call for a Free Consultation with Our Santa Barbara Attorneys for Stepparents Adopting their Stepchildren
If you are seeking to adopt your spouse’s children and become their legal parent, talk to an attorney today. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Santa Barbara stepchild adoption attorneys may be able to take your case to court and get you custody and parental rights over your stepchildren. These rights can help ensure that you have the right to make decisions in your child’s life and that you share equal responsibility for care and support of your stepchildren. To schedule a free legal consultation on your case, contact our lawyers today at (805) 643-5555.