An adoption may be for an adult or a minor. A person wishing to adopt a step child may file for a step child adoption. The following information applies to a step child adoption.
Filing the petition
The Superior Court has jurisdiction over all adoptions. The county where the person filing the petition lives is the proper county for filing the Petition. We call this the proper venue. The person filing the petition is called the "Petitioner". If a child is living with one of its natural parents, and not the other, the parent with whom the child is living is called the "custodial parent" and other parent is the "noncustodial parent". A step child adoption requires the consent of the noncustodial parent, or the petitioner must prove to the court that the noncustodial parent failed to support the child, and chose not to communicate with the child. When filing an adoption petition the court will issue a citation to appear which must be served on the absent parent, together with a conformed copy of the petition.
Service of Petition and Citation to Appear
The papers must be served by a Sheriff, Marshal, registered process server, or by a person over the age of eighteen who is not a participant in the adoption proceedings. The person serving the Citation and Petition serves a copy on the noncustodial parent. The person serving the papers must complete a proof of service showing who, when, where and what was served. The proof of service must be signed under penalty of perjury. This proof of service is then filed with the court together with the original Citation to Appear.
There are a number of approved methods of serving the Citation and Petition. These include:
- Personal service, whereby the papers are handed to the absent parent.
- Service by mail with an acknowledgment of receipt, whereby the papers are sent by mail to the absent parent together with a form called an "Acknowledgment of Receipt". The absent parent must sign the Acknowledgment of Receipt and return the form to the petitioner, who then files the form with the court. THIS METHOD OF SERVICE ONLY WORKS WHEN THE NONCUSTODIAL PARENT IS COOPERATIVE.
- Substituted service is only permitted after a number of attempts at personal service have failed. With substituted service another adult at the noncustodial parent’s home can receive the documents. The process server must also mail an additional set of the documents to the non-custodial parent. There are strict requirements which must be met for substituted service to be effective.
- If the absent parent resides outside California, you can have the Petition and Citation served by certified mail, return receipt requested.
- If you cannot locate the absent parent, and have made reasonable, good faith efforts to do so, you can apply to the court for an order for publication.
Filing the petition
Adoption hearings are closed to the public to protect the privacy of the parties. Be on time for your case. Bring to the hearing copies of all the papers filed in the case. The minor must be present in court if required on the citation to appear. In determining whether to grant a contested petition, the court will consider what is in the best interests of the child.
For frequently asked questions about Adoption, please visit our FAQs page.
For more information on Adoption, visit the California Courts Self-Help Center.