Adoption

FAQs

No. You do not have to have a lawyer when you go to court. In California, several hundred thousand people each year go to court without a lawyer. This is called being in "pro per" -- the legal term for a person representing him or herself without a lawyer. However, some cases are complicated. This is when a lawyer can be most helpful.

You may find that you need a lawyer if:

  • anyone involved has an estate with substantial assets;
  • anyone involved lives outside of California;
  • there are some other legal proceedings going on at the same time;
  • anyone involved has special needs (physically/emotionally disabled);
  • anyone involved is a member of the armed services, or
  • anyone involved is Native American (in which case, federal laws may apply).

Lawyers are trained to research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the law to the specific circumstances you face. In addition to skills in legal research, a lawyer will usually have:

  • familiarity with courtroom rules and procedures;
  • an understanding of when a witness is needed, and how he or she should be prepared for a trial;
  • an understanding of when an expert, consultant, or investigator is needed – where to find such a person, and how much is reasonable to pay; and
  • experience with different strategies for effective presentation of a case in court.

If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer there are several options that may help.

  1. Every superior court in California has legal help available in family law and in small claims cases. Several superior courts can also help you with other legal issues. Find out what services are available at your court.
  2. There are legal aid offices in many cities throughout California. These are non-profit organizations that provide free legal services to people below a certain income level. Find legal aid offices in your area and find out what areas of law they cover.
  3. If you don’t have much money but the other party in your case does, the court might order the other party to pay for some or all of your lawyer’s fees. (You would have to ask the court for this. It is not automatic.)
  4. Many bar associations have Modest Means Panels made up of lawyers who will take certain kinds of cases for a reduced fee. (You would have to find your local bar association and ask if it could help you with this.)
  5. You may be able to find a lawyer who will coach you on representing yourself (called "coaching"), or who will only handle (and charge you for) the more complicated parts of your case. This is called "limited scope representation" or "unbundled legal services.” (Your local bar association may have a list of lawyers who do limited scope representation.)

Generally, lawyers specialize in a particular area of the law. They may specialize in trial law (civil or criminal), bankruptcy law, elder law, family law, etc. When working with a lawyer, it is important to know his or her specialty.

NOTE: A lawyer cannot represent you in Small Claims court but they may help you prepare for your case.

If you decide to hire a lawyer, make sure you understand:

  • what you will be paying for,
  • how much it will cost, and
  • when you will be expected to pay your bill.

You may want to talk to several attorneys before you hire one.

You can also find attorneys listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory, or through the internet.

Agency Adoption:

Birth parents give up their parental rights to an adoption agency. The agency is then legally responsible for the custody of the child. California’s Department of Social Services, or an adoption agency, asks the court for permission for the adoption.

Tribal Customary Adoption:

A child is adopted through the tribal custom or law of the child’s tribe. Termination of parental rights is not always required for a tribal adoption.

Independent Adoption:

Birth parents choose the adopting parent(s) and place the child directly. No agency is involved. The birth parents must be told their rights, responsibilities and options from an Adoption Service Provider. Birth parents must sign an Independent Adoption Placement Agreement.

International Adoption:

Parent(s) adopt foreign-born children. Federal law makes a special immigration entry visa available. An adoption must be completed in the child’s birth country and in California.

Stepparent Adoption:

The spouse or domestic partner of the child's parent adopts that child. One of the child's birth parents remains the child's parent and the other birth parent has his or her parental rights terminated.

Stepparent Adoption to Confirm Parentage:

The spouse or domestic partner was married to, or in a domestic partnership with, the child's birth parent at the time that the child was born. In this case, an easier process can be used to finalize the adoption. No social worker report or court appearance is needed.

Relative Adoption:

The adoptive parent is a relative caregiver who has had an ongoing relationship with the child.

Adult Adoption:

An adoptive parent, who is older than the adult person to be adopted, wants to create a parent-child relationship that will be legally recognized.

An adoption creates a legal parent-child relationship between the adopting parent and the child.

  • It gives both the adopting parent and the child many legal rights and responsibilities, some of which continue into the child’s adulthood.
  • It terminates some rights formerly enjoyed by the birth parents.
  • It is permanent. Once the adoption is final, it can only be cancelled under very unusual circumstances.

Consequences for the Adopting Parents:

Once the adoption is final, the law treats the adopting parents as if they were the child’s birth parents.

  1. They become legally responsible for the child’s care, education and support until adulthood - or even longer, in some situations. They have the right to exercise authority over the child.
  2. They also become legally responsible, in some circumstances, for problems caused by the child, such as injuries to another person or harm to property.
  3. They have a right to inherit from the child if the child dies without a will.

Consequences for the Child:

Once the adoption is final, the child loses almost all child-parent rights with his or her birth parents.

  1. Normally, they lose their right to visitation with their birth parents.
  2. They are relieved of any legal responsibilities to their birth parents.
  3. They lose the right to inherit from their birth parents if the birth parents die without
    a will.

Consequences for the Birth Parents:

Once the adoption is final, the birth parents lose all parental rights and obligations for their child.

  1. They are relieved of any responsibilities to the child, including the child’s care, education and support.
  2. Normally, they lose their right to visit with their child.
  3. They lose the right to inherit from their child if the child dies without a will.

There are many costs during an adoption including attorney fees, agency fees, court filing fees, and investigators' fees. The costs will vary a lot from case to case. The following information may help you to start to think about costs that could be involved.

1. Attorney Fees

You may not need an attorney for agency, stepparent or domestic partner, or relative adoptions. Having an attorney in an independent, tribal, or international adoption can make sure that you meet all legal requirements.

2. Agency Fees

  1. Fees vary for private adoption agencies.
  2. A licensed public adoption agency or Department of Social Services Adoptions Office will require a fee of no more than $500.

3. Investigation Fees

In most adoptions, an investigator writes a report to the judge about the adopting parents. In a stepparent adoption to confirm parentage, no investigation is necessary. The cost of the investigation will vary from case to case. The cost of the investigation of an independent adoption petition is $4,500.

4. Other Adoption-Related Costs

You may need to pay for fingerprinting, a medical examination, and court filing fees. There may also be costs involved in getting documents you need for an adoption.

Learn about financial aid for adopting children with special needs who are living in foster homes.

In California, an “adoption service provider” can be:

  • A licensed adoption agency.
  • A licensed social worker who has provided adoption social work services for at least five years.
  • A licensed marriage and family therapist who has provided adoption casework services for at least five years.

In other states or countries, an adoption service provider may be an adoption agency or individual approved under the laws of that state or country.

NOTE: A lawyer may be an adoption service provider if there aren't at least 3 other adoption service providers available.

Get the list of Adoption Service Providers in California.

An Adoption Facilitator makes money by matching prospective adoptive parents with birth parents.

An Adoption Facilitator only arranges contact between the birth parent and the prospective adoptive parent(s).

All further actions are performed by the birth parent and:

  • the prospective adoptive parent(s).
  • their attorney.
  • a licensed, public or private adoption agency.

Adoption Facilitators must inform clients that they are not a licensed adoption agency.

Adoption Facilitators must be registered with the California Department of Social Services, but they do not provide oversight.

The Adoptions Services Bureau (ASB) provides Agency and Independent adoption services.

Agency Adoptions

The ASB provides Agency services for 28 counties. They only place court-dependent children, most of whom have special needs.

The child is placed for adoption by the CDSS or a licensed adoption agency. A birth parent's parental rights are already terminated. The adoption agency is responsible for the child's adoption plan until the adoption is completed.

Independent Adoptions

The ASB also provides Independent services for 55 counties. Independent adoptions are transactions started by the birth parents and the proposed adoptive parents of the adoption.

The birth parent picks the adoptive family and places the child directly.

“Birth parent” usually means the biological parent. It could also mean the person who gave birth to the child, even if they are not biologically related to the child (i.e., a donated egg was used).

In California, the law “presumes” (supposes to be true without proof) that a man is the legal father of a child in any of the following situations:

  • He and the child’s mother are or have been married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage has ended.
  • Before the birth of the child, he and the child’s mother tried to get married, and the marriage is or could be declared invalid -- and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated.
  • With his consent, he is listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • He has acknowledged his paternity in writing.
  • He is obligated to support the child, either by voluntary agreement or court order.
  • While the child is under the age of 18 years, he has lived with the child and openly claimed the child as his biological child.

By law, a presumed father has a right to have custody of the child. Therefore, he has the right to receive notice of any court proceedings regarding the child, including petitions for adoption or actions to terminate parental rights. (See California Family Code, Section 7611.)

  • He has 30 days after service of the notice of the adoption to:
    • Agree to the adoption;
    • Sign a Denial of Paternity, or
    • Go to court to try prove that a father-child relationship exists, and to ask for custody of the child.
      • If he does file a lawsuit within the time allowed, then the adoption proceeding has to wait until that lawsuit is resolved
  • If he does not respond to the notice of the adoption within 30 days, then the court can terminate his parental rights.

In California, an “alleged father” is a man who is identified by the mother as the possible birth father of her child. An alleged father is not married to the birth mother and has not lived with the child and the birth mother after the child was born. (Compare with "presumed" father.)

An alleged father has the right to receive official notice that he has been named as the possible birth father of the child and that the child is being put up for adoption.

  • He has 30 days after service of the notice of the adoption to:
    • Agree to the adoption;
    • Sign a Denial of Paternity, or
    • Go to court to try prove that a father-child relationship exists, and to ask for custody of the child.
      • If he does file a lawsuit within the time allowed, then the adoption proceeding has to wait until that lawsuit is resolved.
  • If he does not respond to the notice of the adoption within 30 days, then the court can terminate his parental rights.

A. If it’s not known where the alleged father is, everything possible has to be tried to find him so that he can be served with the notice of the adoption.

  • If after a thorough search the alleged father cannot be found, the court can end his parental rights.

B. If there may be more than one possible father and the birth mother is unsure of the identity of the biological father, the court can terminate the rights of as many men as may potentially be the father.

  • If, for example, the birth mother knows of three possible fathers, all three of those men should receive notice of the alleged paternity.

The right to parent one’s child is a fundamental constitutional right. However, it is not the simple fact of biological parentage that gives those rights. It is acceptance of parental responsibilities that support those rights. The standard that the courts will choose in viewing these rights is best interest of the child.

There are many reasons why parents may decide to place their child for adoption. This is their right. Under other circumstances, the court may decide to terminate the parent’s rights so that an adoption can take place.

There are two main reasons that a court may terminate parental rights:

  1. The child has been neglected or cruelly treated by either or both parents (see California Family Code, Section 7823, and the following 6 sections).

    Normally, a state agency will be involved if there has been neglect or cruel treatment of a child. (Although one parent may neglect a child and the other parent be the caregiver.)
  2. The parent has abandoned the child (see California Family Code, Section 7822).

Proof will have to be presented to the court at a special hearing on parental rights that the abandonment was intentional. This could be done through:

  • Testimony of witnesses and/or
  • Written documentation.

Rights of a "Presumed" Father:

A presumed father has essentially the same rights as the mother.

Rights of an "Alleged" Father:

An alleged father has the right to receive “notice” that an adoption is pending of a child which could possibly be his.

Rights of the Birth Fathers Clarified

As stated above, the right to parent one’s child is a fundamental constitutional right, but it is not the simple fact of biological paternity that gives those rights. It is acceptance of parental responsibilities that give significant constitutional rights to the birth father. Further, the birth father must act to take responsibility for the child “within a short time” after he first learns, or should have known, of the pregnancy.
(See California Supreme Court decisions Adoption of Kelsey S. (1992) and Adoption of Michael H. (1995)).

If either parent does NOT give consent for the adoption, the adoption proceedings cannot go forward in court until this issue has been resolved.

  1. The adoptive parents could file a case asking the court to terminate parental rights of the parent who does not agree to the adoption.
  2. The parent who does not agree to the adoption could file a case asking the court to give custody of the child to him or her.

NOTE: These are separate law suits and the court has to decide these issues before the adoption law suit can be heard.

In an independent adoption, each birth parent placing a child for adoption should be advised of his or her rights by an adoption service provider. This should be done in a face-to-face meeting during which the birth parent may ask questions and have questions answered.

During this meeting, the adoption service provider should explain:

  • The alternatives to adoption.
  • The alternative types of adoption, including a description of the full procedures and timeframes involved in each type.
  • The full rights and responsibilities of the birth parent with respect to adoption, including the need to keep the department informed of his or her current address in case of a medical emergency requiring contact and of providing a full health history.
  • The right to a lawyer paid for by the prospective adoptive parents upon the request of the birth parent.
  • The right to a minimum of three separate counseling sessions, each to be held on different days, to be paid for by the prospective adoptive parents upon the request of the birth parents.

(See California Family Code, Section 8801.5)

NOTE: These legal rights only apply to an independent adoption, when the birth parents choose the prospective parents and place the child directly with them. They do not apply to other types of adoptions, such as agency adoptions.

  • If she chooses to have her child adopted by an adopting family, she will usually sign the consent in the first week of the child’s life. It becomes final the 31st day after signing.
  • If she chooses to have her child adopted through an adoption agency, she will usually sign the agreement in the first week of the child’s life. It becomes final when the Department of Social Services accepts it.

Remember: The consent of the father of the child is also needed before the adoption can be finalized.

A surrogate mother is artificially inseminated with the semen of the prospective father. A donated egg from another woman may also be used, using in vitro fertilization.

After the birth, the surrogate assigns her parental rights to the birth father (and possibly his spouse).

If you want to adopt a child who was born to a surrogate , you must have proof that her parental rights were legally terminated. This may have been done before the child was born.

  • If you have written proof that the parental rights of the birth mother were terminated, you can move forward with the adoption process.
  • If you do not have written proof that the parental rights of the birth mother were legally terminated, consult with an attorney.

If you want to adopt a child who was conceived using a sperm donor, how you proceed will depend on:

  • If you know the sperm donor’s identity.
  • If the insemination was conducted under the supervision of a doctor or a sperm bank.
  • If the insemination was conducted after signing California Statutory Forms for Assisted Reproduction, Form 4.

Unknown Donor at Doctor’s Office or Sperm Bank

If the birth mother obtained sperm from an unidentified donor, and the insemination was conduced through a physician or sperm bank, then the donor is not a legal parent of the child.

Known Donor at a Doctor’s Office or Sperm Bank

If the birth mother asked someone she knew to donate sperm, and a doctor or a sperm bank was provided with the sperm before the insemination, then the donor is not a legal parent of the child. (see Family Code Section 7613(b)).

Known Donor at Home

If the donor is known and the insemination was performed at home, and the birth mother, sperm donor (and other intended parent if applicable) signed California Statutory Forms for Assisted Reproduction, Form 4 before the insemination, then the donor is not a legal parent of the child.

If the donor is known and the insemination was performed at home, without using a doctor or sperm bank and without signing California Statutory Forms for Assisted Reproduction, Form 4, then the donor may be the child’s legal parent. (see Family Code Section 7613(b)). This means that:

  1. You have to let the donor know about the adoption and,
  2. He must give you written consent to the adoption.
Tip: If the donor will not give written consent and you want to proceed with the adoption anyway, then consult with an attorney who has experience in this area of law.

The adopting family cannot give a birth mother large sums of money or gifts to have a child. This is considered buying a baby, and is a serious crime.

However, adopting parents can pay pregnancy-related living expenses of the birth mother. The adopting parents may pay the birth mother’s rent, utilities, food and other expenses during the last three months of her pregnancy and six to eight weeks after the birth. The adopting parents may also pay the birth mother's attorney’s fees.

The amount must be:

  • Reasonable.
  • Necessary.
  • Related to the pregnancy.
  • Only for the period before and after birth.
  • Paid unconditionally.
  • Paid as an act of charity.

It is illegal for the birth parent to accept this money unless the birth parent intends to place the child for adoption with those adopting parents.

However, because the payment by the adopting family is unconditional and an act of charity, the adopting family cannot demand a refund from the birth mother if the adoption doesn't go through.

Background

In the United States, more than 110,000 children with "special needs" are waiting for permanent homes. Almost all of these children are in the public foster care system.

Definitions

A “special needs child” is a child who:

  1. Cannot or should not be returned to the home of his or her parents because there is:
    1. A petition to end parental rights,
    2. A court order ending parental rights, or
    3. a legal document signed by the parents giving up parental rights.
  2. Has at least one of the following characteristics that is a barrier to his or her adoption:
    1. Is in a sibling group that should remain intact,
    2. By virtue of his or her race, ethnicity, language or color,
    3. Older than three,
    4. Has parents with mental or behavioral conditions that may negatively affect the child's development.
  3. Adoptive placement is unlikely without financial aid because the child has a mental, physical, emotional, developmental, or medical disability.

The Adoption Process

Most adoptions of special needs children are done through agencies, so unless you have already located a child or are adopting a relative with special needs, follow the procedures for agency adoptions. The agency will tell you about financial aid available for special needs adoptions.

Any time a child is going to be adopted, you first have to find out if the child may be of American Indian ancestry.

If the child is an Indian child, there are special rules to follow. Work with a legal representative of the child’s tribe to make sure that all state, federal and tribal requirements are met.

Tribal Customary Adoption

Tribal Customary Adoption is for Indian children who are dependents of California's courts. It allows an Indian child to be adopted through the laws and traditions of the child’s tribe. The parental rights of the child's biological parents do not have to be terminated.

The child’s tribe decides whether or not tribal customary adoption should be used. The child’s social worker must consult with the tribe. A valid tribal customary adoption order must be issued.

Neither the parents nor the child need to consent to the tribal customary adoption. However, anyone involved may appeal the decision to use tribal customary adoption.

Each year, thousands of U.S. citizens adopt children from overseas. This is known as an intercountry adoption. The process can be complicated.

Laws

The intercountry adoption process is governed by three different sets of laws:

  • U.S. federal law
  • The laws of the child’s country of birth
  • The laws of where you live (California state laws, for example)

Processes

There are three different processes for bringing an adopted child into the United States:

  • Hague Adoptions
  • Orphan Adoptions (Non-Hague)
  • Other Adopted Children

Eligibility

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is responsible for:

  • Determining the eligibility and suitability of the prospective adoptive parent(s);
  • Determining the eligibility of the child to immigrate to the United States.

Agencies

Because intercountry adoptions are complex, most adoptive families work with an agency or adoption service provider.

  • If you intend to adopt a child from a country that is a party to the Hague Adoption Convention, you will need to select an adoption service provider that has been accredited or approved by the Council on Accreditation.
  • In addition, other countries have their own accreditation process for adoption service providers.

Home Studies

Home studies are very important to the intercountry adoption process, but there are different requirements depending on where the child you want to adopts lives, and if they are related to you. You need to learn:

  • Who can conduct a home study in your case;
  • What the home study requirements are in your case.

Visas

If the child you intend to adopt is living outside of the United States, the child will need an immigrant visa before entering the U.S. Visas are issued by the U.S. Department of State at the Embassy or Consulate in the country where the child lives.

  • There are 3 different types of visas – IR-2, IR-3, and IR-4 visas. Who gets which visa depends on where the child is living, where the adoption is finalized, and other factors.

Child Citizenship

Not all children with visas automatically get U.S. citizenship when they enter the U.S. to be adopted. See the Child Citizenship Act Information Fact Sheet.

More resources:

Visit the U.S. State Department’s website for much more information about international adoptions.

To visit the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services’ website for more information about international adoptions.

There are 3 main reasons that people adopt an adult:

  • Inheritance. Adoption creates a parent-child relationship so that the adopted person can inherit from the adoptive parent(s).
  • Formalizing a parent-child relationship. When an informal parent-child relationship existed, the adult parties may want to formalize the relationship through adoption.
  • Perpetual Care. If the person to be adopted cannot care for him- or herself, adoption allow for lifetime care under family insurance or through inheritance.

For the adoption of an adult:

  • The adopting parent must be older than the person to be adopted.
  • A person under the age of 18 who is married or in a domestic partnership may be adopted as an adult if he or she has the consent of his or her spouse or domestic partner.
  • Once the adoption is complete, the adopting parents and adopted adult assume a legal parent-child relationship with each other. Except in stepparent adoptions, an adult adoption cuts off all other existing parent-child relationships. (In a stepparent adoption, the adoptive parent’s spouse retains their parent-child relationship with the adoptee.)
  • An amended birth certificate will be issued for the adopted person, showing the adoptive parent(s) as birth parents.
  • The adopted adult may take the family name of the adoptive parent.

The court documents needed for an adult adoption are:

  • The Adoption Agreement. This states that the parties agree to the legal relationship of parent and child, and to have all of the rights and be subject to all of the duties and responsibilities of that relationship.
  • The Petition. This is the formal request that the court approve the Adoption Agreement. This document must provide specific details, including the ages of the parties, the nature and length of their relationship, and the reasons the adoption is being sought.
  • The Order of Adoption. This is the formal court order granting the adoption. Present this at the adoption hearing for the judge to sign.
  • Spousal Consent(s). If the adopting parent or adult to be adopted is married or in a domestic partnership, written consent of the spouse(s) is required.
    • Consent of spouse of adopting parent
    • Consent of spouse of adopted person

NOTE: There are no fill-in-the-blanks forms for adult adoptions. You will have to create your legal documents, and these need to contain very specific language. The Sacramento Law Library has samples of the required documents, with instructions for how to customize them for your specific case.

Before a judge can make a decision about terminating a parent’s rights, he or she will need to know the law you are using as the reason for termination.

NOTE: The right to parent one’s child is a fundamental constitutional right, so you will need to prove to the court that termination of those rights is in the best interests of the child. If you have not yet worked with a lawyer in this case, please consider consulting a lawyer now. He or she could review the paperwork you have done so far, and help you prepare your Statement of Legal Grounds for Petition to Terminate Parental Rights.

Ask if your court has a local form for this. If not, you can create your Statement of Legal Grounds for Petition on the Judicial Council Form MC-030, Declaration.

  • Fill in the boxes at the top of the form.
  • In the large blank space, write the California Code Section that best fits your circumstances.
  • Write the date that you filled in the form, then print your name and sign the form.

NOTE: Generally, termination of parental rights is covered by one of four laws, listed below.
It is important that you read the law yourself to learn if one of them covers your circumstances.

1. California Family Code, Section 7662
A petition to terminate parental rights of a father can be filed if a person with legal custody of the child consents to adoption of the child AND

  • The father’s relationship to the child has already been terminated, or determined not to exist by a court.
  • The father has been served with written notice that hecould be the father of a child placed for adoption.
  • The father did not try to establish legal paternity of the child within 30 days of receiving the notice or the birth of the child, whichever is later.
  • The father has signed a California Dept. of Social Services form denying his paternity, relinquishing the child for adoption, consenting to the adoption of the child, or waiving any parental rights he might have had.

2. California Family Code Sections 7822-7826.
A petition to terminate parental rights may be filed if:

  • The child has been abandoned by one or both parents.
  • The child has been neglected or cruelly treated by one or both parents.
  • The parent or parents suffer a disability because of alcohol or drug use, or is morally depraved.
  • The parent or parents have been convicted of a felony.
  • The parent or parents have by declared by a court to be developmentally disabled or mentally ill.

3. California Family Code, Section 8604
A petition to terminate the parental rights of either parent can be filed if for a year or more, the parent did not communicate with or pay for the care, support and education of the child when he or she was able to do so.

4. California Probate Code, Section 1516.5
A petition to terminate parental rights may be filed if:

  • One or both parents do not have legal custody of the child.
  • The child has been in the physical custody of the guardian for at least two years.
  • The court finds that it would be in the child's best interest to be adopted by his or her guardian.

IMPORTANT:

Attach documents that prove why you can claim the legal grounds for your petition. For example, if the father has signed a California Dept. of Social Services form denying his paternity, attach a copy of it.

Some of these issues are very difficult to prove, and may require a court investigator or other qualified professional to investigate all of the factors involved. This may require that you spend a lot of time and money.

A parent’s rights may be terminated if it can be proved that either:

  • That parent failed to communicate with and support the child for at least one year
  • That parent legally abandoned the child, which means that the absent parent failed to communicate with or support the child.

It is the court’s duty to protect the rights of everyone involved. It is very cautious about ending parent-child relationships. That is why proof will have to be presented to show that the failure of the parent to support and/or communicate was on purpose, or that the abandonment was intentional. This could be done through:

  • Testimony of witnesses.
  • Written documentation.

NOTE: Usually, a separate agency will investigate an abandonment petition. This investigation can cost hundreds of dollars.

If the absent parent had really good reasons for not seeing or communicating with his or her child, the court will not assume willfulness or intent. Such reasons might include:

  • The person with custody of the child might have prevented the parent from having contact with the child. For example, they may have not informed the absent parent of where the child was living. Or they could have returned letters unopened, or blocked phone calls.
  • There might have been an illness that prevented the absent parent from visiting the child.
  • The absent parent may have been in the military or had to travel long distances for work over a long period of time.
  • The absent parent may have been in prison or otherwise incarcerated.

The right to parent one’s child is a fundamental constitutional right. However, it is not the simple fact of biological parentage that gives those rights. It is acceptance of parental responsibilities that support those rights. The standard that the courts will choose in viewing these rights is best interest of the child.

There are two main reasons that a court may terminate parental rights:

  1. The child has been neglected or cruelly treated by either or both parents.
    (see California Family Code Section 7823, and the following 6 sections)
    • Normally, a state agency will be involved if there has been neglect or cruel treatment of a child. (Although one parent may neglect a child and the other parent be the caregiver.)
  2. The parent has abandoned the child. (see California Family Code Section 7822)
    Proof will have to be presented to the court at a special hearing on parental rights that the abandonment was intentional. This could be done through:
    • Testimony of witnesses and/or
    • Written documentation.

Rights of a presumed father
A presumed father has essentially the same rights as the mother.

Rights of an alleged father
An alleged father has to right to receive notice that a court case has been filed stating that a child could possibly be his.

If either parent does NOT agree to the termination of his or her parental rights, he or she could file a case asking the court to give custody of the child to him or her.

In California, the law “presumes” (supposes to be true without proof) that a man is the legal father of a child in any of the following situations:

  • He and the child’s mother are or have been married to each other, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage has ended.
  • Before the birth of the child, he and the child’s mother tried to get married, and the marriage is or could be declared invalid -- and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated.
  • With his consent, he is listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.
  • He has acknowledged his paternity in writing.
  • He is obligated to support the child, either by voluntary agreement or court order.
  • While the child is under the age of 18 years, he has lived with the child and openly claimed the child as his biological child.

By law, a presumed father has a right to have custody of the child. Therefore, he has the right to receive notice of any court proceedings regarding the child, including petitions for adoption or actions to terminate parental rights. (See California Family Code, Section 7611)

  • He has 30 days after service of the notice of any court hearing to:
    • Agree to the adoption or guardianship, if one is being requested;
    • Sign a Denial of Paternity, or
    • Go to court to try prove that a father-child relationship exists, and to ask for custody of the child.
  • If he does not respond to the notice of the court proceeding within 30 days, then the court can terminate his parental rights without a hearing. (See California Family Code, Section 7667)

In California, an “alleged father” is a man who is identified by the mother as the possible birth father of her child. An alleged father is not married to the birth mother and has not lived with the child and the birth mother after the child was born. (Compare with “presumed” father.)

An alleged father has the right to receive official notice that he has been named as the possible birth father of the child.

  • He has 30 days after service of the notice of the court proceeding to:
    • Agree to the adoption or guardianship, if one is being requested;
    • Sign a Denial of Paternity, or
    • Go to court to try prove that a father-child relationship exists, and to ask for custody of the child.
  • If he does not respond to the notice of the adoption within 30 days, then the court can terminate his parental rights without a hearing.

A. If it’s not known where the alleged father is, everything possible has to be tried to find him so that he can be served with the notice of the court proceeding. For some suggestions, see How the Court Will Expect You to Search.

  • If after a thorough search the alleged father cannot be found, the court can end his parental rights.

B. If there may be more than one possible father and the birth mother is unsure of the identity of the biological father, the court can terminate the rights of as many men as may potentially be the father.

  • If, for example, the birth mother knows of three possible fathers, all three of those men should receive notice of the alleged paternity.

Most courts will ask you to at least do these things to try to find the birth parents:

  • Send a letter -- certified and registered with return receipt requested -- to each parent's last known address.
  • If you know for sure that a parent left that last known address, send a letter to that address and write on the envelope: “Do not forward. Address correction requested.” If the parent left a forwarding address, the post office will return the letter to you with the new address.
  • Call friends you had in common or family members of each parent to see if they have any information;
  • Call the telephone directory in any city where you think a parent could be living;
  • Do an internet search for each parent;
  • Contact the Department of Child Support Services in your city or county to see if they have any information on either parent, especially if you think one of them ever filed for child support;
  • Contact the County Recorder's Office in any county where either parent has lived to see if you can find any information.
  • Pay a private investigator or an internet search service.

Make sure you keep track of the dates, times, and the results of all of your efforts to find the parents. You will have to give the court all these details in writing to get the court's permission to let you move ahead with your case even if you can't find the parents.

You can NOT serve your papers yourself.

A. How is personal service done?
Ask someone who is at least 18 years old and not involved in the case to personally "serve" (deliver) a copy of your court papers to the person to be served.

Your server can deliver the papers to that person anytime, anywhere. However, for personal service to be valid it must be done at least 10 days before the court hearing.

Tell your server to:

  • Walk up to the person to be served.
  • Identify the person to be served – preferably by name. (If this isn’t possible, note what the person to be served looks like to be able to describe him or her.)
  • Say courteously and calmly, "These are court papers."
  • Give the person copies of all the court papers. If the person won't take the papers, just leave them near the person and say, “I’m leaving them here.” (What the person to be served does or does not do with the papers is up to him or her.)
  • Fill out and sign the Proof of Service (Form FL-330).

TIP: If you are using a friend or family member to serve for you, ask your server to read the Proof of Service, Form FL-330, before serving so they will be able to more easily fill out the form after delivering the legal papers.

B. How is substituted service done?
Substituted service can only take place at the home or place of work of the person to be served. For it to be valid, substituted service must be done at least 10 days before the court hearing. The days are counted from the day your server mailed the 2nd copy of the papers to the person to be served. See below.

If the person you have to serve is not at home or work when your server goes there, your server can give the court papers to:

  • A competent adult (at least 18) who appears to be living at the home with the person to be served, or
  • An adult who seems to be in charge where the person to be served usually works, or
  • An adult who seems to be in charge where the person receives mail (including a private mailbox, but not a U.S. Postal Service P.O. Box). Note: This is only for cases where the physical address of the person to be served is not known.

Your server also has to:

  • Tell the person that he or she is leaving the court papers with to give them to the person to be served.
  • Write down the name of the person he or she gave the court papers to. If the person won't give his or her name, your server must write down a physical description of the person who took the papers.
  • Mail (on the same day) another copy of the court papers by first-class mail to the person to be served at the same address where he or she left the papers.
  • Fill out and sign the Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115).

C. How is service by mail done?
Sometimes, service may be done by mail – but will only be valid if the person being served signs and returns a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (Form POS-015). Service is considered completed on the date the Receipt is signed.

Ask your server to mail by first-class mail to the person to be served:

  • One copy of each of your court papers.
  • Two copies of a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (Form POS-015)
  • A return envelop, postage pre-paid, addressed to the sender.
  • Fill out and sign the Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335)

NOTES:

  • The Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt says on it: “Failure to complete this form and return it to the sender within 20 days may subject you … to liability for the payment of any expenses incurred in serving a summons upon you in any matter permitted by law.
  • If they do not send the Receipt to you, you will have to consider using personal service or substituted service.

D. Learn how to do Service by Publication.

“Service by publication” means that you publish your court summons and petition in a newspaper in the area where the missing parent is likely to be.

  • You have to ask the court’s permission to do this.
  • It is usually used when you do not know how to find the missing parent and do not have an address or workplace for him or her.

Before the court will give you permission to serve by publication, you will have to prove to the court that you tried as hard as possible to find the missing parent. Every court is slightly different in what they require, but most require at least that you:

  • Try to find the missing parent at his or her last known address or last known work;
  • Mail letters to the last known address with forwarding address requested;
  • Call the missing parent’s friends and family or ex-coworkers to ask about his or her whereabouts;
  • Look for the missing parent in the phone book for any city where he or she is likely
    to be;
  • Search on the Internet, and
  • Ask for the current address of the missing parent using social media.

To find out exactly what your court requires you to do before you can ask for permission to do service by publication, read your court’s local rules or ask your court clerk or self-help center.

Step 1: Once you have taken all the steps your court requires before asking to serve by publication, then:

  • Write up a “Declaration of Due Diligence”. This is a document in which you tell the court every attempt you made to find the missing parent.
    • Include as much detail as possible. For example, if you called friends and family, write down the dates and what they told you. If you mailed a letter to the last known address, explain when you sent it, what address you sent it to, and what the result was. You have to sign this document, swearing that it is true to the best of your knowledge.
    • There is no form for this, but you can use a Declaration (Form MC-030). Your court’s self-help center may have a local form to help you with this.
  • Create a written request for the court to allow you to serve by publication.
    • Give your name, the name of your spouse or partner, the child’s name, and the missing parent’s name.
    • Explain who all of you are (for example, natural mother, presumed father, applicant for adoption, child).
    • State that you have been unsuccessful at locating the absent parent and that a “Declaration of Due Diligence” is attached.
    • Ask that the court issue an order for the Summons to be published in the newspaper you have chosen once a week for four consecutive weeks, and
    • State that you swear that everything you have written is true to the best of
      your knowledge.
  • Next, prepare an order for the judge to sign. Again, ask your court’s self-help center if they have a local form for this. If not, write out what you requested – publication of the court summons and petition in the newspaper you have chosen once a week for four consecutive weeks

Step 2: Make 3 photocopies of your “Declaration of Due Diligence,” your written request for the court to allow you to serve by publication (your “Application”), the court order you created, and the court summons and petition you want to publish. Take the originals and photocopies to the courthouse and ask a court clerk for instructions in how to get the court order signed by a judge. (Different courts handle this step differently.)

  • If the court grants your request to serve by publication, the judge will sign your proposed order, and allow you to publish your court documents in a newspaper of general circulation in the area.

Step 3: Make arrangements for publication of the court summons and petition with the newspaper that the judge has approved.

  • Court clerks usually have a list of newspapers that the court accepts for this purpose.
  • You will have to publish it for 4 weeks in a row, at least once a week.
  • Service by publication is complete at the end of the 28th day after the first date the summons and petition are published in the newspaper.
  • The newspaper must give you an affidavit showing the time and place the document was published.

NOTE: The service by publication must be complete at least 10 days before the court hearing date.

Step 4: Fill out a Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115) and file it with the court.

  • Be sure to attach a copy of the newspaper’s affidavit showing the time and place that the document was published.

Under California law, a child cannot be adopted without the okay of the child’s birth parents, if they are alive. (See California Family Code, Section 8604)

Many times, the child’s birth parents approve of the adoption.

However, in some cases one of the birth parents does NOT approve of the adoption.

If a parent does not approve of the adoption, the court may be asked to end the birth parent's rights. This is very serious, so the court doesn't want to do it unless the birth parent knows about it and has a chance to go to court and tell his or her side to the judge. The judge will then decide if the court will end the parental rights or not.

If either of the parents does NOT agree to the adoption, and the court decides NOT to end that parent’s legal rights, then the adoption cannot go through.

Yes.

  1. Even if you don't know who or where the child's other parent is, you will have to try to find him or her. You will need to get his or her consent, or get a court order ending the parental rights.

  2. Talk to a lawyer to make sure you know what the legal rights of the other parent are in your case. Then you will know what you must do to complete the adoption.

If the child was conceived through artificial insemination with a sperm donor, and the birth mother followed the law to make sure the sperm donor did not have parental rights, then you probably don't need to get the sperm donor's consent. If the birth mother was married or in a domestic partnership with someone else when she had the child, you may need to get the consent of the birth mother's spouse or partner. Talk to a lawyer to make sure.

You do not have to get an absent parent’s consent for an adoption if it can be proved that either:

  • That parent willfully failed to communicate with and support the child for at least one year.
  • OR that parent legally abandoned the child, which means that the absent parent failed to communicate with or support the child.

It is the court’s duty to protect the rights of everyone involved. It is very cautious about ending parent-child relationships. Therefore, you will need to prove that the parent's failure to support and/or communicate was on purpose, or that the abandonment was intentional. This could be done through:

  • Testimony of witnesses.
  • Written documentation.

Investigation and Court Hearing

Willful Failure:

  • For most adoptions, social services will investigate the absence of the parent as part of its adoption investigation. There will be no additional cost for this investigation.
  • No separate court hearing will be required. The judge will consider the willful failure charge and the adoption request at the same time.

Abandonment:

  • Usually, a separate agency will investigate an abandonment petition. This investigation can cost hundreds of dollars.
  • A separate court hearing will have to be held to prove abandonment before the adoption petition can go ahead.
  • If you can’t find the absent parent, his or her relatives have to be notified of the abandonment hearing and adoption request.

If the absent parent had really good reasons for not seeing or communicating with his or her child, the court will not assume willfulness or intent. Such reasons might include:

  1. The person with custody of the child might have prevented the parent from having contact with the child. For example, they may have not informed the absent parent of where the child was living, returned letters unopened, or blocked phone calls.
  2. There might have been an illness that prevented the absent parent from visiting the child.
  3. The absent parent may have been in the military or had to travel long distances for work over a long period of time.
  4. The absent parent may have been in prison or otherwise incarcerated.

If one of the child’s birth parents has died, tell the judge that on your Adoption Request (Form ADOPT-200), and at your court hearing. You will need to give the judge some type of proof, like a certified copy of a death certificate for that parent.

Even if you do not know who or where the birth parents are, you still have to:

  1. Try to find the birth parents and get a written consent (agreement) to the adoption.

    Or
  2. Get a court order to end each of the birth parent's parental rights after searching for him or her and proving to the judge that you tried everything possible to find the other parent.

You may want to talk to a lawyer for help deciding what to do in your case.

Most courts will ask you to at least do these things to try to find the birth parents:

  • Send a letter -- certified and registered with return receipt requested -- to each parent's last known address.
  • If you know for sure that a parent left that last known address, send a letter to that address and write on the envelope: “Do not forward. Address correction requested.” If the parent left a forwarding address, the post office will return the letter to you with the new address.
  • Call friends you had in common or family members of each parent to see if they have any information;
  • Call the telephone directory in any city where you think a parent could be living;
  • Do an internet search for each parent;
  • Contact the Department of Child Support Services in your city or county to see if they have any information on either parent, especially if you think one of them ever filed for child support;
  • Contact the County Recorder's office in any county where either parent has lived to see if you can find any information.
  • Check the voter registration records in the county where each parent lives or has lived.
  • Pay a private investigator or an internet search service.

Make sure you keep track of the dates, times, and the results of all of your efforts to find the parents. You will have to give the court all these details in writing to get the court's permission to let you move ahead with your case even if you can't find the parents.

For California State Prison:

Call the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). You must have either the inmate's CDC number or the inmate's full name and date of birth to get information. Find the phone number for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Inmate Locator. Find a list of California correctional facilities.

For Federal Prison:

Click for the Federal Bureau of Prison's Inmate Locator database . You can search the database using the inmate's first and last name or the inmate's Register Number, DCDC Number, FBI Number, or INS Number. Find a list of federal correctional facilities at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Fill in whatever information you know (like the state or city you are looking for) and hit “submit.”

For County Jail:

Call the jail. You can usually find the phone number and address for the jail by calling the county sheriff. Find the contact information for the county sheriffs in California.

If you do not know if a person is in state or federal prison or county jail, search for the person in state and federal prison and the counties where you think the person might be incarcerated.

The county tax assessor's office can search the tax rolls for you. The tax rolls in the assessor’s office list the names and addresses of property owners in the county by both owner name and address of the property. The tax assessor's address and phone number is also listed in the government pages of your phone book. It is usually in the county section under ASSESSOR.

You can also get this information from the county registrar/recorder's office. The property owners are listed by name, and each listing includes the location of the property owned. The address and phone number of your county registrar/recorder’s office is also listed in the government pages of your phone book. It is usually in the county section under RECORDER.

If you tried everything the court expects you to do and you still can't find the birth parents, then explain to the judge each thing you tried, with the dates you tried and the result. If the judge agrees that you have tried everything possible, the judge may let you go ahead with the adoption without letting the birth parents know.

If you could not find the birth parents, and one of them finds out about the adoption later, he or she could go to court.

He or she could give the judge proof that you didn't do everything the law requires you to do, and try to have the adoption cancelled.

That's why it is very important that you follow each step and make sure that the adoption is done right.

In most cases, you cannot ask for an adoption if one of the birth parents of the child does not agree to the adoption.

But, in very few cases, like when the other birth parent has abandoned the child for over a year and has not paid any child support or seen or talked to the child, you can ask for an adoption.

To do this, you have to properly serve both birth parent with the adoption notice (citation) and the birth parents will have to show up on the court date and object to the adoption. The judge will make the final decision based on the best interests of the child.

These cases are complicated. Talk to a lawyer to make sure you follow the right steps.

A joinder allows another person or agency to join a court case. With an adoption case, it is most often used in agency adoptions.

An agency adoption is when a child is placed for adoption by a licensed adoption agency. The adoption agency has been legally responsible for the custody of the child.

When someone wants to adopt a child in agency care, the agency approves adoptive parent(s). It then places a child in the adoptive family's home. It supervises the placement for six or more months before the court is asked to approve the adoption.

The joinder tells the court that the agency consents to and joins in the adopting parents' petition. The joinder is usually on California Department of Social Services’ Form AD-824.

The Joinder form must be filed with the court before the adoption can be finalized. It is usually filed with the Adoption Request, Form ADOPT-200. It can also be filed later.

As part of the adoption process, the adopted child’s name may be changed. Some adoptive parents choose to have the child’s last name changed to that of their adoptive family, but any name may be used.

To change the child’s name, put the new name in the Adoption Request, (Form ADOPT-200). The change will become legally effective when the adoption is final.

NOTE: In an agency adoption, only the child’s new name can be used on court records. The child’s name before the adoption should not be used in court.

The child’s birth certificate may also be amended to reflect the new name. This process removes the birth parents’ names and shows the adoptive parents as the parents. No mention is made on the new birth certificate of the adoption. The original birth certificate is then sealed and can only be unsealed by a court order.

A legal guardian is someone appointed by the court to make decisions regarding a child. Legal guardianship suspends, but does not end, the rights and responsibilities of the birth parents. Legal guardianship ends when the child turns 18 years of age, marries, or is adopted.

What is the difference between adoption and guardianship?

Adoption is permanent and gives the adoptive parent all parental rights and responsibilities for a child. It also terminates the parental rights of the birth parents.

In the context of adoption, a dependent of the court is a child who is in a children's shelter or in a licensed foster home because he or she was abused or neglected.

A judge may declare a child a dependent of the juvenile court when the child's home is unfit because of cruelty, neglect, or abuse, or when the child does not have a competent guardian.

The primary goals of the court are to:

  1. Provide a safe environment for the child.
  2. Keep families together, when possible.
  3. Try to provide a stable and permanent alternative home for the child, if the child's family cannot be kept together. In some cases, this means that the court will terminate parental rights so that the child can be adopted.

The Adoption Assistance Program gives cash aid to people who adopt children with special needs in foster homes.

This financial aid is provided through the Department of Social Services (DSS). DSS will also certify that the child meets the eligibility criteria. They will then determine the amount of financial aid needed by the child and the adopting family.

The eligibility criteria for the child includes:

  1. That the child has at least one of these barriers to adoption:
    Membership in a sibling group that should stay together.
    By virtue of his or her race, ethnicity, language or color.
    Is at least three years old.
    Has birth parents with mental or behavioral conditions that could negatively affect the development of the child.
  2. That adoptive placement is unlikely without financial aid because the child has a mental, physical, emotional, developmental, or medical disability.

The amount of the cash benefit will be based on the needs of the child and the circumstances of the family. These family circumstances include:

  1. The family’s ability to include the child in the household in relation to their standard of living, and
  2. The overall ability to meet the immediate and future plans and needs of the child.

The family is also potentially eligible for federal and state tax credits. The family should check with the adoption agency to get more information about these credits.

Sometimes a birth parent will give up parental rights and responsibilities for his or her child. This is called relinquishment.

A birth parent may relinquish his or her child to the Department of Social Services (DSS) or a licensed adoption agency by signing a written statement in front of two witnesses.

Usually, the written statement is give on Relinquishment: In or Out-of-County, Form AD 501. The relinquishment will go into effect 10 business days after a copy of the form has been received by the Department of Social Services in Sacramento. The DSS or licensed adoption agency then becomes the “parent” of the child until an adoption takes place.

NOTE: On this form, the parent may name a prospective adoptive parent. The adopting agency will try to place the child with that person.

If that adoption does not work out for some reason, the placement agency has to let the parent know that it didn’t work out. If that happens, the parent may take his or her child back if they contact the adoption agency within 30 days. If the parent does nothing, the agency will look for another adoptive parent.

An independent adoption is when the birth parent(s) pick the adoptive parent(s). The birth parent places the child directly with them.

When the child is placed, an Independent Adoption Placement Agreement, Form AD 924, must be signed by at least one of the birth parents, the adoptive parent(s), and the adoption service provider. It gives the birth parent(s) 30 days to change their minds about the adoption.

During those 30 days, the adoptive parent(s) are responsible for caring for the child. However, if the birth parent changes their mind about the adoption, the adoptive parent(s) must give the child back immediately.

NOTE: If the child is an American Indian child, you must use Form AD 925 instead.

The birth parent also has to complete Statement of Understanding: Independent Adoptions Program, Form AD 926. For an American Indian child, use Form AD 927.

The Statement of Understanding: Independent Adoptions Program, AD 926, must be completed and signed by the parent who is placing the child for adoption and by an adoption service provider.

This Statement of Understanding has five main parts.

1. The first part requires that you know certain things about the adoptive parent(s):

  • their name, age, religion, ethnicity, employment, health conditions, and arrest history.
  • the adoptive parent(s) previous marriages.
  • any other children they may have outside of the home.
  • any child support obligations.
  • whether any children have been removed from them due to abuse or neglect.

2. The second part asks more questions about the adoptive family, including:

  • how long the prospective parents have been in a relationship (if applicable).
  • where they live.
  • a list of everyone living in the home.

3. The third part is a list of the birth parent’s rights. These include:

  • The right to have a lawyer, paid for by the adoptive parent.
  • The right to talk about the adoption plan with other people.
  • The right to look into options other than adoption.
  • The right to three counseling sessions, paid for the adoptive parent.

4. The fourth part makes sure you understand that the adoption will be final after 30 days.

5. The fifth part makes sure you understand that the adoption case is private, and information can only be shared under certain circumstances.

NOTE: If the child is an American Indian child, you should use Form AD 927 instead.

A contact after adoption agreement lets an adoptive family stay in touch with the birth family after the adoption. This is sometimes called an open adoption.

The family members decide what level of contact feels comfortable for them. Communication may include telephone calls, letters, e-mails, or visits.

NOTE: Even in an open adoption, the legal relationship between a birth parent and child is terminated. The adoptive parents are the legal parents of an adopted child.

You can use the Contact After Adoption Agreement, (Form ADOPT-310). This form lets the judge know that members of the adoptive and birth families have decided to have continued contact. The court can approve the agreement if it is in the best interest of the child.

The court can permanently end the legal parental rights of a parent. This may be with or without the parent's permission. It may be for one or both parents.

It is called relinquishment when one or both parents choose to give up their parental rights so that an adoption can take place.

"Involuntary termination of parental rights" takes place when the court finds one or both parents unfit to care for their child.

Parental rights may be terminated in several ways.

  • In Juvenile Dependency Court. The child becomes a ward of the court when someone reports mistreatment. The court will terminate parental rights if it finds that the parent(s) have abused, neglected, or abandoned a child. Parental rights will also be terminated if it's found that the parents suffer from mental or physical incapacity, including substance abuse, that prevents them from caring for the child.
  • In Family Court Adoption proceedings. Both birth parents may choose to give up their parental rights so the child can be adopted.
  • In Family Court Stepparent Adoption proceedings. Termination is with the consent of the non-custodial parent so the stepparent can adopt the child. It can also be without their consent if the court finds that the parent has willfully abandoned the child.

Families often need support after placement or after the adoption is final. Families may need services as adoption-related issues arise.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway gives general information about learning how to talk about adoption, address adoption issues in school, help children with grief and loss, get help for post-adoption depression, find needed services, and get financial help. You can also find information about:

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families, has a very help website called Child Welfare Information Gateway.

The following links on that website give general information that address the concerns of both adopted people who are searching for birth parents or other birth relatives, as well as birth parents (both mothers and fathers) who want to locate a child who was adopted.

In addition, California’s Department of Social Services has on its website a list of Frequently Asked Questions on Obtaining Information About Your Adoption.

The questions it answers for California residents are:

  • I was adopted. How can I get information about my adoption and about my birth parents?
  • I am an adult adoptee. How can I make contact with my birth parents?
  • I am the sibling of an adoptee or an adoptee. Can I petition the court for the appointment of a confidential intermediary?
  • I am an adoptee. How can I obtain a copy of my original birth certificate and/or documents from my adoption file?
  • I am a birth parent. I would like information on the child that I placed for adoption and about that family that adopted the child. What kind of information am I entitled to?
  • I am a birth parent. How can I make contact with my child?
  • How to obtain forms and additional information.