Legal Guardianship to Adoption in California

This guide will help you understand more about the process of guardianship to adoption and the key differences between legal guardianship vs. adoption in California.

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Going from Legal Custody to Adoption

Although guardianship and adoption have slightly different outcomes, both are meant to provide loving and supportive care for the child. There may be several reasons to turn your guardianship into an adoption. 

But, although converting guardianship to adoption in California is a relatively straight-forward legal process that gives full legal custody to the guardian, there are some concerns any guardian might have before the adoption, such as:

  • Obtaining the court’s permission to move out of state
  • Notifying the parents of any moves within the state
  • Going back to court because of a guardianship termination

The thought of the biological parent or other relative taking you back to court is understandably discouraging. But, terminating a guardianship requires either everyone to agree or a court order in which a termination is in the child’s best interests. 

Adoption offers security to both the child and the guardian from a disruption.

Legal Guardianship vs. Adoption in California

Adoption and guardianship are similar in a few ways, but they also have some unique differences, too. Below are some areas in the process where guardianship and adoption vary:

In a Guardianship

  • Parents still have parental rights. They can ask for reasonable contact with the child.
  • The court can end a guardianship if the parents become able to take care of the child.
  • Guardians must submit regular reports and must comply with any court orders regarding visitation.

In an Adoption

  • The parents' rights are permanently ended.
  • The legal relationship with the adoptive parents is permanent and is exactly the same as a birth family.
  • An adopted child inherits from his or her adoptive parents, just as a birth child would.
  • The court does not supervise the adoptive families.

Most importantly, adoption provides the child with permanency and gives the entire family a sense of stability.

How to Adopt from Permanent Guardianship in California [4 Steps]

In California, a person who is a legal guardian can apply to adopt the child they have welcomed into their home after at least one year of guardianship. But, if the child was legally abandoned, you may only need to wait six months.

It may be best to wait two years to attempt the adoption of the child, however, because then a California court can terminate the parental rights if it finds that “the child would benefit from being adopted by his or her guardian.”

Talk to an experienced adoption attorney. They can advise you on when the timing is best to file for adoption, given your particular circumstances.

4 Steps to Complete the Guardianship to Adoption Process in California

Step 1. Complete the Home Study

In every case, the guardian must obtain a home study in accordance with the type of adoption — independent or agency — being pursued.

After you file the Adoption Request, the California Department of Social Services or the designated county agency will conduct an investigation of you and your home to recommend to the court whether it should grant the adoption. 

Step 2. Get Biological Parental Consent to Adopt

One or both of the child’s biological parents can sign independent adoption consent or an agency relinquishment if the parent agrees with the adoption plan.

FCCA can accept the relinquishment of any parent who agrees with the adoption plan.

Step 3. Apply to the Court for Uncontested Termination of Parental Rights

If one or both of the parents object to the adoption, the guardian can request that the court involuntarily terminate parental rights for reasons such as:

  • Abandonment
  • Conviction of a serious felony
  • Another reasonable cause

The adoptive family must hire and pay for private legal counsel to pursue the matter.

Step 4. Finalize Your Adoption and Carry on With Post-Placement Visitations

After your child is placed in your home, you must complete at least six months of post-placement supervision before your adoption can be finalized. 

We can provide post-placement services for you. Your social worker will complete at least four visits with you and the child, at least one of which is conducted in your home with all household members present.

Additionally, we will file the necessary adoption paperwork with the court to arrange a finalization hearing for you. If you are working with a private attorney, they may complete this step instead of FCCA.

As with all legal adoption topics, it’s recommended that you speak to an experienced adoption attorney to learn more about specific California adoption laws before moving forward. An attorney can also examine your personal situation to determine whether legal guardianship vs. adoption in California is best for you.

If you are ready to formally adopt a child in your care, or if you have additional questions about guardianship to adoption in California, please contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.