adopting a relative in california family lawyer

People adopt their relatives for a variety of reasons. A child might have been orphaned. Or the child’s natural parents might be imprisoned, institutionalized or incapable of properly raising the child due to drug addiction, severe mental or physical disability, chronic poverty or other factors. In most cases, the courts have a strong preference for letting a relative adopt a child in such circumstances.

Adoption of a relative in California is known as a “kinship adoption.” A person seeking to adopt must meet these requirements:

  • Be a California citizen
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have a permanent residence suitable for the child
  • Have the financial means to provide for the child’s needs
  • Have the ability to provide for the child’s care and emotional well-being

Kinship adoption is generally simpler than adopting from outside of the family. That said, there are precise steps involved, each having specific requirements. These are the major phases of the process:

  • Consent  If the biological parents are alive and available, the person seeking the adoption (adopter) requests that the parents consent to the adoption and agree to relinquish all parental rights.
  • Application  The adopter files a petition with the appropriate court in the jurisdiction. The petition requires an application package with the details of the proposed adoption. This package includes a home study conducted by the state to judge the petitioner’s suitability as an adoptive parent.
  • Temporary Care  If the court agrees that the petitioner is an appropriate parent, the child will be placed in the petitioner’s care with state supervision.
  • Adoption Hearing  After the child has spent several months in temporary care, the court will order a hearing on the proposed adoption. If the petition is approved, the adopter becomes the full legal parent of the child.

The state fee for the adoption petition and the related matters is $4,500. The fee may be reduced for low-income petitioners.

The complexity of a kinship adoption depends largely on the extent of cooperation by the child’s biological parents. Some will voluntarily consent to the adoption and sign over their parental rights. In other instances, one or both parents have abandoned the child and have refused to take responsibility. Occasionally, one or both of the biological parents will object to the adoption and a contentious court battle may ensue. A child who is 12 years or older will be allowed input as to whether they agree with the proposed adoption, so the child may have to appear in court. In all cases, the family court must determine whether it is in the child’s best interests to be adopted by a relative.

Favaro, Lavezzo, Gill, Caretti & Heppell, PC is a multi-practice California law firm serving the North Bay area. We guide each adoption client through the process with care, compassion and diligence. If you are considering adopting a relative, feel free to contact us online or call 707-674-6057 to arrange a consultation at our Fairfield or Vallejo office.