The Adoption process in California are governed by the California Family Code.
Any adult may adopt any minor who is at least 10 years younger than them (unless the adoptive parent is a stepparent, sibling, aunt, uncle or first cousin). If the minor is at least 12 years old, the minor’s consent must be obtained for the adoption process.
There are several channels through which one may adopt in California. There are of course international adoptions and domestic adoptions. The majority of domestic adoptions are private adoptions through which the birth mother has chosen the adoptive parents personally. She may have selected the adoptive parents either on their own or with the help of an adoption facilitator or private agency.
There are also domestic agency adoptions which is often how children from within the foster system are adopted. Finally, there are adoptions by stepparents. The process for adopting a stepchild is much more streamlined than other adoptions as no home study or court hearing are required.
Consent to Adoption
A birth mother may consent to the adoption of her child after her discharge from the hospital. The consent becomes irrevocable in a private adoption process after 30 days. When an adoption is handled through an agency, the consent is irrevocable after the Department of Social Services acknowledges the consent or within 10 days of their receipt, whichever comes first. The consent of the birth father, who is not married to the birth mother, is not required as long as he was given notice of the adoption.
Post Adoption Contracts in the Adoption Process
It is possible for birth parents and adoptive parents to enter into post adoption contracts. These contracts are agreements governing any desired ongoing contact between the birth parents and the adoptive child. They are entered into at the time the birth parents give consent to the adoption. They are highly personalized and may merely include requests for photographs and updates or they may set out a schedule for ongoing visitation. Whatever the terms of these agreements, they must be ratified by the court granting the petition for adoption.
Adoptive Parent Requirements
Courts will ultimately make adoption decisions by considering the best interests of the child in question. However, prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a home study and a criminal background check. These investigations are overseen by the California Department of Social Services and will involve a fee of $4,500. In addition to the home study, any of the following characteristics of a prospective parent my prohibit the adoption: a history of criminality, evidence of abuse or violence in the past or lack of financial stability. It should be noted that California has no marriage requirements for adoption and same-sex couples may petition for joint adoption.
Payments to Birth Parents
California permits adoptive parents to pay the expenses of the birth parents including, attorney’s fees, medical expenses, counseling fees and living expenses. There must be written records of any money exchanged and the adoptive parents must submit all receipts to the court. The Court will not allow for payments that exceed reasonable maternity related and necessary living expenses.
The state of California will recognize a foreign adoption so long as it was issued in compliance with the laws of the United States and the laws of the country where the adoption was granted. Additionally, the country granting the adoption must have been a Hauge Convention country. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security may require that an internationally adopted child be “readopted” through the California courts. This will include a post-adoption home visit and the filing of an adoption petition in California court.