The process for adopting your stepchild in California is fairly straightforward. To qualify, you must be legally married to the custodial parent of the child whom you wish to adopt. A same-sex partner in a domestic relationship with the custodial parent of a child also qualifies to adopt the child as a stepparent. You, your spouse and the child in question (if he is 12 years of age or older) must all consent before you can initiate the proceedings, and you do not need an attorney to finalize the stepparent adoption.
Discuss your intent to adopt your stepchild with the child in question. Even if your stepchild is young, and especially if your stepchild is over 10 years old, you should talk to her to see how she feels about the process. While you and your spouse may be excited about the idea, your stepchild may feel confused, angry or even abandoned by her other biological parent. Talk to your stepchild privately to explain the process and see how she responds. Then, hold a family meeting and allow everyone to ask questions or express their feelings about the potential adoption.
Note that California also requires you to obtain consent from your stepchild prior to the adoption if she is at least 12 years of age, so you stepchild will need to formally agree to the process if she meets the age requirement.
Obtain Form ADOPT-200, ADOPT-210 and ADOPT-215 from the clerk of the family court in your county. You can also download and print the forms directly from the California judicial website (see Resources).
Complete all three forms by filling in your personal information, your spouse's information and your stepchild's information. You will need your stepchild's full name, date of birth and Social Security number to complete the forms. Mark the adoption as a "stepparent adoption" in the appropriate sections. You and your spouse must sign the bottom of all three forms when you are finished. Make a copy of the signed forms and retain the copies for your personal records.
File the original signed forms with the clerk of the family court in the county where you currently reside. There will be a nominal fee--typically, between $50 and $250--that you must pay at the time of filing before the clerk will accept your forms for filing. The clerk will then schedule an adoption hearing and a date for a social worker to conduct an interview in your home.
Complete the in-home interview with the social worker. Your stepchild must be present for the interview. The social worker will conduct a walk-through of your home and interview you, your spouse and your stepchild separately. Once she completes the interview, she will submit her report to the judge for review during the hearing. You will likely not receive a copy of the report until the hearing takes place.
Attend the adoption hearing with your spouse and your stepchild. Bring your copies of the completed forms with you. The court may interview your stepchild privately to determine his wishes. If the hearing goes well, the judge will sign your Form ADOPT-215 (Adoption Order) and the adoption will become final, effective immediately.