Adopting a child
Step-parent adoptions are only possible where one parent's rights have already been terminated or a parent is deceased. The adoption process depends on termination. Where the natural parent will agree to the termination or one parent is deceased, the adoption is a one-step process. All the adopting parent must do is file a Petition for Adoption. The consent to the adoption or the death certificate is attached to the moving papers. An investigation is then conducted by the county to determine if adoption is appropriate. After the investigation, the case is set for an adoption hearing.
Contested adoptions are more difficult. First, they must be based upon proper grounds. Most commonly, that would be abandonment. Once the petition is filed, an investigation is conducted and the natural parent is contacted (if possible). Where the natural parent objects to the adoption, the court must have a trial on the issue. Furthermore, if the natural parent is unable to afford an attorney, one will be appointed for him or her. After the trial, if rights are terminated, there must be a follow up investigation, and then, finally, the adoption hearing. Contested adoptions generally take a year to complete, whereas an uncontested adoption can usually be completed in less than three months.