Adoption without Parental Consent

In California, adoption allows couples and single adults who are not a child’s biological parents to establish a legal parent-child relationship with that child. Once the legal process is finalized, the relationship becomes permanent and the adoptive parents acquire all the legal parental rights to the child that they would have if they were the child’s birth parents. In order for a child to be adopted, however, both bI’irth parents need to either provide parental consent to the adoption, or have their parental rights terminated by the court. If you are seeking an adoption without parental consent, you can expect to face legal challenges and would benefit from the focused legal guidance of an experienced adoption attorney.

The Parental Consent of Both the Mother and Father

For a California court to grant an adoption, both birth parents need to either consent to the adoption or have their parental rights terminated. The only exception to this requirement is in the case of adult adoptions, where the consent of the birth parents is not needed.

When a child’s birth mother has sole custody of the child, she will need to provide her written consent to the adoption, or you will need the court to terminate her parental rights to proceed.

The above described requirement also applies to a child’s birth father. However, while the status as a child’s birth mother is easily established, it is not always the case with a child’s birth father. Birth fathers can fall into two catergories, both of which impose different rights and procedures for termination of those rights. Birth fathers can either be presumed or alleged.

Presumed Fathers

In California, a presumed father has all the legal rights and responsibilities that come with raising a child, whether they are the child’s biological father or not. A father can legally qualify as a presumed parent if:

  • He was married to the child’s mother when the child was conceived or born;
  • He attempted to marry the child’s mother and the child was conceived or born during the marriage;
  • His name appears on the child’s birth certificate; or
  • He acted as if the child was his own and raised the child accordingly.

In order for the court to terminate a presumed father’s rights, a presume father needs to be personally served with the requested petition and a summons for him to appear at a hearing. If the presumed father does not appear at the hearing, the court will likely terminate his rights. If the presumed father does appear, he will get the opportunity to contest having his rights terminated.


In California, an alleged father is a father the mother has identified as the child’s biological father. Typically, a father who is alleged was not married to the mother at the time of the child’s conception or birth, and did not live with the mother or the child. Even if the alleged father is the child’s biological father, he does not automatically have the same rights and obligations as a presumed parent.

In order to terminate an alleged father’s parental rights, he must be given Notice of Alleged Paternity. Upon notice, he has thirty (30) days from the date of service, or from the date of the child’s birth if it is later, to file court papers establishing his paternity. Failure to do so allows the court to end his parental rights. It is important to note that after an alleged father follows through with establishing paternity in this way, he then becomes a presumed father and acquires the accompanying rights described above.

Terminating Parental Rights

When California courts terminate parental rights, the most common reason is for the abandonment of the child. Abandonment is established when either of the following applies:

  • The child was left with anyone who was not their other parent for at least six months, while the abandoning parent maintained little or no communication with the child.
  • The child was left with the other parent for at least a year, while the abandoning parent maintained little or no communication with the child.

Failing to pay court-ordered child support can also be translated as an intention to abandon a child. Other reasons for terminating a parent’s parental rights include habitual drug use and a felony conviction.

It is important to recognize that parents’ rights are well protected in California, and a court will not terminate those rights unless it is presented with clear and convincing evidence. The clear and convincing evidence standard is the highest standard of proof in civil cases and can be hard to meet.

Turn to an Experienced California Family Law Attorney for the Help You Need

If you are adopting a child, it can open up a bright, new world for both your family and the child. If, however, you lack the necessary parental consent, the legal path forward will likely be challenging. Having a seasoned California family law attorney in your corner is always well-advised.