What Does a Stepparent Adoption Entail?

Adoption is generally a costly and exacting legal process. Depending upon the circumstances, however, a stepparent adoption can be more straightforward and less expensive. If you are pursuing a stepparent adoption, it is an important matter that affects your entire family, which makes consulting with an experienced adoption attorney the best path forward.


In California, adoption is the process that affords an adoptive parent the permanent rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Adoption, in other words, is an immense responsibility as well as immensely rewarding. While in most adoptions an extensive and expensive homes stuy is required, in California, there is an exception in place for stepparent adoptions.

Stepparent Adoption

California has a process in place that specifically addresses stepparent adoptions with a sequence of steps and requirements involved.

The Petition

Your stepparent adoption is initiated when you file a petition for an adoption. This may be filed in the county in which you, your stepchild’s biological parent, or your stepchild reside. It may also be filed where your stepchild was born.

The Stepparent Investigation

In lieu of a home study, a stepparent investigation is conducted by an investigative agency. That agency is often the court’s probate department, but can be a private adoption agency or the department of social services. After the investigation is completed, a report is drafted by the probate department investagtor who conducted the investigation The stepparent investigation report refers to the written document that reflects the findings of the investigation that must be submitted to the court handling your case. This report consists of a declaration from your spouse or partner–who is the biological parent of the stepchild you are petitioning to adopt–and a declaration from you. Said declarations must identify anyone else who claims parentage over the child to ensure that the other parent is notified and that their consent to the stepparent adoption is obtained. The investigation will also include background checks, a physical examination, and interviews of you, your spouse, and your stepchild to be adopted.  At the conclsuion of the investigation, the investigating agency will submit a report to the court with the recommendations for supporting or not supporting the adoption.

The Matter of a Home Study

Generally, a home study is required for all types of adoptions of minor children.  The cost of a home study is typially over $4,500.00 and the process takes a minimum of six months.  However, a home study is not required when the adoption is a stepparent adoption, which means that you can save both time and money in this arena.

Consent in Stepparent AdoptionThe Court Hearing

The court will consider the stepparent investigation report and recommendation in determining whether or not to grant the adoption.  The court must also handle the consent or termination of the other parent’s rights. If the court determines that the other parent’s necessary consent has been obtained in your case, the parental rights have been otherwise lawfully terminated, or that the other parent has been properly notified of the stepparent adoption and not come forward to contest it–it will move forward with granting your stepparent adoption.

The Cost

Your stepparent adoption will be specific to the circumstances involved, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact cost, but there are some considerations that can provide you with a well-informed idea regarding the overall expense. The primary costs are typically:

  • Stepparent investigation ($700)
  • Adoption filing fee ($20)
  • Attorney fees (ranging from $3,000-$10,000 or more if thereis a trial to terminate parental rights)


An Experienced California Adoption Attorney Is Standing by to Help

Adopting your stepchild allows you to become their legal parent–with all the rights, responsibilities, and rewards that entails. By moving forward with this legal process, you openly demonstrate your commitment to and love for your stepchild, which can deepen your parent-child bond. While stepparent adoptions are generally less expensive than other kinds of adoption, you can still encounter legal challenges. Because the matter is too important to leave to chance, having an accomplished California adoption attorney in your corner is always in your best interest.