Being adopted by a step parent is one of the most significant moments in a child's life. It means that for the step parent - sharing a home, and being married to the child's parent, wasn't enough - that the step parent wanted to fully take on the role of parent, as if his or her stepchild was also born to them, with the benefits and responsibilities that go with that. Stepparent adoption also provides legal security in case something were to happen to the existing parent, as without a step parent adoption the step parent has few guaranteed parenting rights. The information below is for those planning to adopt a stepchild in Los Angeles County. (If you live in Orange, Riverside, San Diego or San Bernardino County, please click here.)
Step Parent Adoption in Los Angeles County - How to Adopt a Stepchild Step-by-Step
To file an Adoption Request in Los Angeles County there are a few core requirements. You must be a resident of the county. The stepparent must be married to (or registered domestic partner of) one of the child's parents. And the child must be under the age of 18. (If 18 or over, it is an adult adoption, with different laws and procedures.)
Which Los Angeles County courthouse would handle my step parent adoption?
There are twelve district Superior Courts in Los Angeles County handling family law matters. Recently, however, Los Angeles County has changed its policy and only accepts stepparent adoption cases in the Edmund Edelmen Children Court, which is the county's central children's court. It is located in Monterey Park.
Does Los Angeles County Require a Home Study to adopt a step child?
No . . . and yes. A detailed home study, as is done in traditional adoptions (such as adopting a non-relative baby) is not required when you adopt a stepchild. In a step parent adoption there is an "investigation," which involves much less time, paperwork and cost. There are no required "home visits." The assigned agency to do the required step parent investigation is the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (LADCFS). Their fee is $700. Randy will tell you about a new law, however, which allows the investigation to be done by a licensed private adoption agency, which is much faster (often taking only 6 weeks compared to 12 months or more when done by LADCFS. The private adoption agency that Randy recommends you use only charges the same $700 fee, so you benefit without any extra cost.
What Legal Documents are Required in Los Angeles County to Adopt a Step Child?
A typical stepparent adoption will involve nine legal documents, but Randy prepares them all, so you don't need to worry about them. When you have your consultation with him he will tell you about all these documents so you know what his services include. Randy's flat fee for a standard stepparent adoption is $1,500 (which even includes his office costs like notary, copies, postage, mileage). Details about Randy's simple flat fee.
What Are the rights of the Birth Father?
Birth fathers' rights are a very complicated legal issue, too much so to discuss in this limited space. The short answer, however, is that there are two legal categories of fathers: alleged or presumed. There are multiple possible ways to terminate the rights of an absent parent if they can't be found or refuse to consent. (Randy has an "Advanced Q & A" page on subjects such as this, but it is likely easier for you to learn the same facts during your initial consultation.)
Is a Court Hearing Required to Finalize a Stepparent Adoption?
Yes, but it is short and simple. (The judge even lets you take photos.) It is a private hearing, so only you and your guests, and Randy as your attorney, attend. Start to finish, when using the licensed private adoption agency Randy recommends, and when the case is not contested by an absent parent, the usual total time to complete a stepparent adoption for Randy is under 4 months. With many attorneys, particularly when using LADCFS, their usual completion time is 12-18 months.
Will the New Birth Certificate Change Our Child's Last Name?
A nice benefit when you adopt a stepchild is the free name change. You will receive an amended birth certificate. It lists the adopting step parent as the birth parent (in place of the absent parent) and allows you to change the child's name if you wish (perhaps matching the step father's last name).
What are Randy's Qualifications as an Adoption Attorney?
Randy has practiced adoption law exclusively for 33 years. he has a 5-star client rating from Avvo, an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, an "AV - preeminent" rating by Martindale-Hubbell (the highest possible rating and earned by less than 3% of attorneys nationwide), is a member of the Academy of California Adoption Lawyers (only 35 attorneys in the state are admitted), been an adoption expert on many national TV programs and has authored many adoption books. Read client reviews and verify Randy's credentials. He is the author of one of Amazon's most popular books in the "step parenting books" category, STEP PARENTING: 50 One-Minute DOs & DON'Ts.
It's easy to get started. . .
STEP ONE: You are welcome to call Randy to get briefly acquainted. He will be happy to answer a question or two. For a full consultation, however (about 30 minutes), you need to first fill out a short questionnaire, which gives him details about your case to fully advise you. The consultation is free and can be by phone or in person.
STEP TWO: Randy will email you his short and simple retainer. In most cases he can specify the flat fee of $1,500 (which includes all legal fees).
STEP THREE: Randy will prepare and send you the Adoption Request and required attachments within 1-2 days of being retained. He will then file it with the court and the process begins. He will continue to work with you until he appears with you in court to finalize the adoption, usually about 4 months later.
15260 Ventura Blvd, Suite 1200 • Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 • (818) 582-2374