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Adoption Law in California [A Primer]

Are you an expectant birth mother or prospective adoptive family in California who is thinking about adoption? If you’ve done much research, you probably already know that California adoption laws can seem convoluted.

States set their own laws when it comes adoption, and California is no different. Adoption law in California can be complex, but it serves the purpose of protecting all parties throughout the adoption process.

Thankfully, you’re not alone in comprehending adoption law in California. American Adoptions can help you navigate California adoptions laws, and we have over 30 years of experience working with birth parents and prospective adoptive families alike.

Our adoption specialists understand the challenges and triumphs inherent in the adoption process. Understanding California adoption code is easier with our adoption professionals working on your behalf. Contact one of our compassionate specialists today to get started by calling 1-800-ADOPTION. Or, get free information by clicking here.

For now, you can learn a little about California adoption codes and how they may shape your adoption experience. The information in this guide shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Contact an adoption attorney or adoption professional before proceeding with your adoption plan.

6 Laws on Adoption in California You Need to Know

California state adoption law is intricate, but it’s all necessary to cover a variety of adoption situations. For that reason, it’s important to speak to an adoption professional or attorney. An adoption professional will help you understand the legal requirements and regulations for adopting in California, no matter if you’re a birth parent or potential adoptive family.

There are enough state adoption regulations to fill a whole book. However, we’ve distilled the more important information you need to know about California adoption laws into this list.

1. Who’s eligible to participate in adoption in California?

California adoption statutes don’t bar many people from adopting if they have the resources to do it and haven’t been convicted of specific felonies. Both married and single people can adopt. There’s no minimum or maximum age, but the adoptive parent must be at least 10 years older than the child. Same-sex couples can adopt. On the other hand, any birth parent can place a child for adoption.  

Some regulations enumerated in the California adoption code could lead prospective adoptive parents to be disqualified. One of those rules involves felony convictions related to a class of crimes.

According to the regulations to adopt a child in California, all prospective adoptive parents must complete a home study performed by a licensed professional. That home study includes a criminal background check. Prospective parents who have been convicted of crimes such as assault, human trafficking, or drug related offenses aren’t allowed to adopt.

While California adoption laws don’t explicitly set eligibility requirements for adoption, private agencies can create their own requirements for prospective parents. For instance, an agency may prefer prospective parents to be married for a specified time before adopting. Other agencies may have minimum and maximum age requirements for parents.

2. Are same-sex couples allowed to adopt in California?

Same-sex couples can adopt a child in the state of California if the couple meets the other eligibility requirements. The right for same-sex adoption isn’t protected only by California adoption statute. It’s also guaranteed nationwide thanks to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges.

Same-sex couples can adopt in California like any other couple. Speak with an adoption attorney or adoption professional to learn more about adopting if you’re part of a same-sex couple.

3. Is there a maximum or minimum age to adopt in California?

Adoption laws in California don’t establish a minimum or maximum age for adoption eligibility, though the parent must be at least 10 years older than the adoptee. California private adoption laws allow anyone who is 18 or older to adopt. For foster care adoptions, the California Department of Social Services requires foster parents to be at least 21 years old. There is no upper age limit.  

That said, individual private professionals may have tighter age requirements for prospective parents. For example, American Adoptions prefers that prospective adoptive parents be between the ages of 22 and 50 to adopt. Exceptions are made occasionally, so ask your adoption specialist about age-related eligibility requirements.

4. Who gives legal consent to adopt and how is it provided under California adoption code?

In California, consent to adoption must be provided by the birth parents before any adoption can move forward. There is no adoption waiting period in California, so birth parents can sign adoption papers after the child is born and the birth mother is discharged from the hospital.

While birth mother consent to adoption in California is always needed unless parental rights have been terminated by the court, the same is not always true for paternal consent. The only time birth father consent is required by law is if he meets one of the following criteria:

  • You are married to him, or were married to him within 300 days of the child’s birth

  • He has received the child into his home and has publicly acknowledged the child as his own

  • You and the birth father have both signed a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity to have him listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate.

  • Within a short time after he knew or should have known about the pregnancy, he has done everything possible to take care of you and the child, both emotionally and financially

Speak with your adoption specialist or an adoption attorney to learn whether birth father consent is required in your unique circumstance.

In independent adoptions, the consent can be revoked within 30 days of execution. In an agency adoption, the birth parent consent is irrevocable.  In either case, birth parents can sign a Waiver to the Right to Revoke, which makes consent irrevocable the next business day.

The only time consent can be revoked outside of these parameters is if it can be proved the birth parent was under duress to provide consent. Consent to adoption given under duress in California can result in revocation of the consent and lead to a contested adoption in California

The parental rights of the birth parents in foster care adoption have usually been terminated before a child in foster care is eligible for adoption. However, if the child is over the age of 12, the adoptee has to provide consent to be adopted by a prospective adoptive family.

5. Are there laws governing adoption advertising in California?

When it comes to adoption, California laws prohibit adoption advertising by birth parents or prospective adoptive families. However, state agencies and licensed private adoption agencies can advertise to birth parents and prospective adoptive families.

6. Does adoption law in California allow payment of birth mother expenses?

The financial impact of an unexpected pregnancy can be significant for an expectant birth mother. Thankfully, California adoption laws let prospective adoptive parents provide financial assistance during pregnancy as long as it falls into one of the categories of expenses allowed by California adoption code.

In California, the prospective adoptive family can pay the following types of expenses:

  • Living expenses for the birth mother

  • Healthcare costs

  • Legal fees

  • Agency fees

  • Hospital and delivery costs

  • Counseling fees

  • Other costs deemed necessary and reasonable by the court

California adoption laws give the court the leeway to determine what birth mother expenses can be considered reasonable and necessary. The court considers a list of factors that can include the birth parents’ financial status and the cost of maintaining the safety and wellness of both the birth mother and the unborn child.

If you’re considering adoption for your baby, you can feel confident that our agency will make sure you receive all of the legally allowable adoption financial assistance you need. You are making a brave choice, and we will do what’s possible to fulfill your needs.

For prospective adoptive parents who may be hesitant to provide financial assistance to birth mothers, American Adoptions has a risk-sharing program for prospective adoptive families. It’s built on our nearly three decades of experience in facilitating successful adoptions and it provide a measure of comfort for prospective adoptive parents throughout the adoption process.

How to find out more about adoption law in California

This guide to adoption laws in California has been a brief introduction and shouldn’t be considered legal advice. If you plan to place a child for adoption or expand your family by adopting a child, you should discuss your situation with an adoption attorney or adoption professional.

Though understanding the laws and regulations regarding adoption in California may be daunting, help is available. Contact one of our experienced adoption specialists today by calling 1-800-ADOPTION to speak with an adoption specialist directly, or you can get free information by clicking here.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. American Adoptions provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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