Considerations in Step-Parent Adoption
People have many reasons for requesting to formally adopt their step-children. It can be the best way to clear up legal complications regarding parental rights or child support. It can also be a way for blended families to bond or feel more “complete.” Adopting a step-child is a very personal choice that each family must make for themselves; no one else can tell you if it is the right thing to do.
If you are considering a step-parent adoption, either as a biological parent or step-parent, there are many legal challenges you may face. For helpful legal advice and efficient assistance with every step of the process, call the San Diego step-parent adoption lawyers of Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP at 858-935-6211.
Questions to Ask
Before your family reaches a final decision about step-parent adoption, there are some complex issues that need to be carefully considered. A few basic topics to be discussed include:
- How do the children feel about this? In California, children aged 12 or older must give their consent to being adopted by their step-parents. Even if your child is under 12, it is important to consider his or her thoughts on the new arrangement. Forcing a step-parent adoptions on children can make them feel like their biological parents are being forgotten or replaced.
- Do you have the absent biological parent’s consent? California requires the consent of both biological parents before a step-parent adoption can proceed. The only exception is in the event of children who have been abandoned – i.e., the absent parent has not contacted them or paid child support in a year.
- Can you find the absent biological parent? Even if you do not know where the other biological parent is living, or even who he or she is, you will need to locate him or her and obtain his or her consent. If you cannot find him or her, you will need to show the court documentation of every attempt you made, so it is important to make a real effort.
- How will this affect everyone in the family? The adopting step-parent will be taking on many legal responsibilities that he or she did not have before. The adopted child may have mixed feelings or fears about the future. The biological parent may also have concerns about making this kind of commitment or receiving child support from the absent parent.
A qualified San Diego step-parent adoption attorney can provide legal details to help you make this complicated choice.
The San Diego adoption lawyers at Fischer & Van Thiel, LLP have been helping families through times of transition for years. Contact us at 858-935-6211 with any questions or concerns you may have.
Mike's Top FAQs About Adoption401K plans and divorce
401K plans and divorce
If my spouse waives his right to my 401k plan, is there any circumstance that the court will still award him half or a portion of my 401k plan?
It is theoretically possible that a court can disturb an agreement to waive rights to property, but it is unlikely. Courts will generally treat agreements as contracts, and thus are likely to strike an agreement only if it is unconscionable, induced by fraud, undue influence, duress or is against public policy. The judge cannot “reject,” nullify, or modify the provisions of an agreement merely because of his or her personal belief that a different arrangement should be made.
A marital settlement agreement, or MSA, can be used as a contract between spouses regarding the division of property that would otherwise be subject to community property laws. An MSA is subject to general contract laws, meaning that it can be found invalid if terms are against public policy (which includes, but is not limited to, (a) abrogating the statutory child support duty or impinging on the court’s jurisdiction to award child support, (b) limiting the court’s exercise of child custody jurisdiction, (c) “altering legal relations,” (d) “promoting dissolution,” and (e) providing for “fault”-based penalties at marriage dissolution) . The MSA can also be found invalid if entered into as a result of fraud, duress, menace, undue influence, or other factors which may make the agreement void or invalid. Generally, an agreement such as the MSA is favored. Hence, if there are no legal or equitable grounds for rescission or reformation it is binding on the parties and the court without express approval.
Can I get child support in California if I am not getting a divorce?
I have been separated for two years from my wife, and my kids live with me. Can I get support without filing for divorce in California? We have not been living together since our separation, and even file taxes separately.
You do not need to file for divorce in order to get support. You will need to go through the court to obtain a child support order so you will have to file something. You can contact your local Department of Child support services office and they can help you get started. So while you do not have to file for divorce, you can file for a legal separation. The court needs to know that you two have in fact separated and there is one parent who is the full time provides and therefore in need of support.
Can I move out with my daughter before the divorce in California?
My wife and I are going to divorce, but we have not filed yet. We are always fighting, and my daughter, who is 7, is very stressed with the way we are living. Can I move out with her, if I do not move far away and let him see her all the time? He is not happy with my choice. Is this legal?
Yes, you can move out with your daughter, assuming there are no court orders already in place regarding custody and visitation. It is important to maintain frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent. When the court makes custody and visitation orders they will look highly upon the parent who facilitated contact with the child and the other parent. It is important to make the transition as easy as possible for the child.
Question: Is there a statute of limitations on owed child support?
An ex lover of mine (20 years ago) just approached me out of nowhere about getting tested to see if her son is my child. He is 20 and I live in California. I am trying to find the statue of limitations for child support if indeed I take the test and the child turns out to be mine.
Unless the mother has made a claim for child support with the welfare office or her local Department of child support services office, they cannot now collect from you on child support. Since he is no longer a minor child now that he is emancipated, there are no obligations for child support. You can get tested to see if you are the father, but you do not have to.
If the state has paid out welfare for the child, and it turns out that you are the Father, there can be some potential liability there with having to pay back the state the money they paid out. If this is not an issue, then they cannot now ask you to pay for child support.
Is the opinion of the child ever taken into consideration in a divorce?
Typically the Courts will take the child’s opinion into consideration at the age of 12. There is no set age, it depends on the maturity level of the child. If a child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference to custody the court can take it into consideration. It is important to note that all judges will rule for what is in the child’s best interests whether it be for the mother or the father.