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An overview of adoption in California

Many residents of Orange County, California, may have often thought of adopting a child but were unaware of the various rules and regulations that govern the adoption process. California has clear guidelines on which an adoption in the state is based and finalized.

Adoption, as the California courts define it, is the legal process of establishing a parent-child relationship between a prospective adoptive parent, not the child's biological father or mother, and the child. Once the adoption is finalized, the parent and the child have rights equal to those of a biological parent and child. This relationship is permanent and is identical to that of a biological child and parent's relationship.

According to statute, an adoptive parent can be a spouse or a domestic partner of the child's biological parent; a relative, such as a grandparent or an aunt; or even someone who is not related to the child by blood. California adoptions are broadly divided into two categories:

  • Step-parent or domestic partner adoption and
  • Independent, agency or international adoption.

In the first category, a step-parent or a domestic partner of a child's biological parent adopts the child. However, the adoption is only possible if the couple is married or registered as domestic partners. This is usually the most common type of adoption and preferred by courts because the child's biological parent remains in relationship with the child. Here, it is important to note that the biological parent, who does not have custody of the child, does not lose parental rights.

Independent adoption does not have the California Department of Social Services or an adoption agency as part of the process. If the adoption is finalized through the DSS or an agency, it is called an agency adoption. The third and probably the most complicated form of adoption is an international adoption, meaning that the child being adopted was born outside the United States.

In this second category of cases, the parental rights of the biological parent are terminated by the court and the adoptive parents gain all legal parental rights pertaining to the adopted child.

Source:, "Adoption," Accessed on Oct. 4, 2014

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The Law Office of Karen H. Beckman

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