When people marry, they do not plan for a divorce. However, circumstances change along the way, causing a marriage to fall apart. Divorce is hard, not just for the couple but for their children. The process can be quite draining, more so emotionally, socially, and financially. It becomes even harder on adopted children as they are losing the cohesiveness of a family they have grown to associate with.
But the process doesn’t have to be so hard on your children if the right procedure is followed. That is why you need the services of the San Diego Divorce Attorney. We can guide you through the process and ensure that your adopted children’s rights are respected throughout.
California Divorce When Adopted Children Are Involved
Children are an integral part of any family. Most couples decide to have children, hoping to care for them until these children become independent. This is what happens in most cases. However, some families fall apart, and divorce is inevitable. Children are the most affected when their families disintegrate. Adults can start afresh in life, but children need the support of both parents. In that case, both parents will have to be involved in their children’s lives even after divorce. That is why California divorce laws are in place to ensure that children’s rights are also respected even as their parents separate.
Married couples that want to have children are free to decide how they will have them. Some choose to bear their children while others prefer to adopt. Once a child legally joins a particular family, they are official members of that family. So, they will be affected by any decisions their parents make. It also applies to adopted children. In that case, when parents decide to separate, this decision will affect their biological and adopted children alike. Some parents are so lost in their pain to realize how their decision will impact their adopted children’s lives. Fortunately, we have the law to guide parents on what should be done and not done to ensure that their adopted children’s rights are not violated.
Because of their past experiences, adopted children tend to be more affected by divorce than biological children. These are children who are probably struggling with a sense of belonging. They already know that they do not fully belong to that particular family. Once the family separates, it becomes even more challenging for them to understand where they truly belong. Most adopted children have already experienced loss in their lives. Some are in the process of healing from that loss or trauma experienced in their early years. Others are struggling with their biological parents’ absenteeism and are clinging to their new family for security and safety.
Divorce shatters these children’s dreams because it is another form of loss, inconsistency, and insecurity for them. Your adopted children will be losing the safety of their family structure once again. Thus, it is advisable for parents of adopted children to handle divorce carefully. As will be discussed later, there must be strategies for what parents can do to make it smoother for their children.
Divorce is also hard for adoptive parents. These are parents who have gone through an intense legal process, whereby they were required to bring out the strength and cohesion of their family to adopt a child/children. After a few months or years, the power and cohesion of that same family are lost, and the only solution the couple has is to divorce. Adopted parents will also struggle with deciding on what will become of their children after their separation. The couple has to agree on crucial matters regarding custody, support, and visitation to ensure that their children will be well-taken care of regardless of their differences.
Is Divorce Different When an Adopted Child Is Involved?
Divorce is never easy, especially for children. The process can be smoother when there are no children involved. However, there will be a few emotional and legal particularities that you must anticipate when there are children. In California, when children are involved, the divorce process is the same, whether they are biological or adopted children. There might be some slight differences, but generally, the process will be the same.
California law regards adoptive parents as the legal parents of the child/children. The parents’ roles and responsibilities will remain even after divorce. It means that parents have to provide and be there for their children after divorce, regardless of whether they are biological or adopted.
Some parents are quick to undo adoption before their divorce process is complete. They do so, hoping that they will avoid taking care of an adopted child after divorce. In cases like these, the court will not look into their issue favorably. Remember that an adopted child has the same needs as a biological one. The child will require food, shelter, and other necessities after your separation.
A family court will always rule in favor of a child. The child’s best interests should always come first before the interests of the separating parents. The court will grant the custodial parent every support needed to ensure that the other parent is responsible for the adopted child after divorce.
When adoptive parents are divorcing, visitation and custody issues are not always apparent. You should bear essential issues in mind, for example, your rights as an adoptive parent, how to help your child/children overcome their fears, and how to co-parent with your ex, among others.
Taking Care of the Unique Emotional Needs of Adopted Children
As mentioned above, adopted children tend to have different emotional needs than those of biological children. Therefore, as a parent, it is your responsibility to recognize those emotional needs and ensure that your children are not affected further by your divorce. Some of these emotional needs do not make the divorce process hard for the children alone but the parents.
For example, an adopted child will have abandonment and attachment issues, making them feel like they are experiencing another significant loss when their parents separate. Talk to and prepare your children beforehand, not to feel as if the separation is their fault. It is essential to reassure your children that they will not be losing anyone in the process. If possible, hire a professional therapist to talk to them as this could help them go through the process with minimal issues.
Additionally, a divorce may feel like a loss of stability to adopted children. Remember that these are children that have experienced instability in the past. You need to inform them about what their lives will be like after divorce. Inform them about custody and visitation schedule, as this will help them understand that they will still have a complete family even after the divorce.
As an adoptive parent, you or your partner may feel additional guilt for pursuing divorce, knowing too well the effect it will have on your adopted children. The feeling of shame comes when you remember the reassurance you probably gave the children during adoption and the fact that you may be letting them down by not keeping the family together. It may not be easy to take care of the children’s emotional needs when struggling emotionally. It is essential to talk to a divorce attorney. An experienced attorney will understand what you are going through to help you realize that it is still possible to provide a happy and stable life for your children after the divorce process.
Your Legal Rights as an Adoptive Parent
Parental rights is an important matter that comes up in any divorce proceeding where children are involved. It is an issue you should anticipate if you are an adoptive parent. If you have legal rights over a child, no one should violate those rights under any circumstances.
If you have adopted a child/children together with your partner, or one of you adopted the other’s child after marriage. In that case, you may be wondering what your rights are and how your situation could impact your parental rights. The truth is that parental rights are not affected by the fact that the children are adopted. You and your partner are regarded as the legal parents of the child/children and will have equal rights in the eyes of a family court.
But always remember that the court will make its decision based on a child’s best interests. For example, if the mother is the biological parent of the child, and the father adopted the child after marriage, there is a good chance that the court will award custody rights to the biological parent. However, other factors come into play, just the same as in custody cases involving biological children. For example, if the birth parent is abusive, the child’s best interest will not be to remain with an abusive parent.
Once the court grants one parent custodial rights over the adopted child, the other parent will be given visitation rights. The idea is to ensure that the child enjoys both parents’ physical and emotional support even after his parents’ separation. The court will also decide on the parent to pay child support and whether or not to grant the other parent alimony. For example, if the custodial parent is not earning enough to support him/herself and the child after divorce, the other parent will be ordered to pay child support. The court will ensure that the custodial parent has enough money to take care of the child’s financial needs after a divorce.
Adoption after a California Divorce
In some instances, some marriages fail even before a step-parent adopts his/her partner’s biological children. In that case, fighting for your parental rights as a step-parent can be emotionally draining and confusing. California law is not so clear on the rights of a step-parent after divorce. Therefore, you may need the help of an experienced divorce attorney to understand the way forward. Your attorney will explain your rights and help you file for adopting your step-child after the divorce process.
A step-parent who has been with the children for a long time has already established an emotional attachment with the children. In case of separation or divorce, both the parent and the children are bound to suffer. If you, as the step-parent, have not legally adopted your step-children, you might experience a hard time trying to fight for your parental rights. The court will consider the biological parent first when determining custody of the children after divorce. If you want to remain a part of the children’s lives, adopting them will be the best solution to take.
The children’s biological parents will most definitely be granted custody of the children after your separation. Since you will not be adopting through an adoption agency, the process will be more straightforward. California has even made the process easier by providing all the documents online, along with the instructions on how to fill them. You will only need to present your interest in court through your attorney, then, a social worker will be sent to make an investigation and provide a report to the court. Based on the findings of the social worker, the court may summon you for a hearing.
The Process of Adopting a Stepchild in California
Adopting a stepchild in California starts with the stepparent seeking the child’s non-custodial biological parent’s consent. The child’s birth parents must understand how important it is for you and the child to remain in contact. Only in rare circumstances will the court allow a stepparent to file for adopting their stepchild without the biological parents’ consent. For instance, in case the biological non-custodial parent is abusive or has abandoned the child.
With their consent, you can proceed to file the necessary documents in court. The importance of working with an experienced divorce attorney is that he/she will know the right documents you should fill and file and the kind of information the court will be looking for. Sometimes a court may deny your request because of failing to file the appropriate documents or not filing the documents on time. Engaging the services of an attorney eliminates possibilities like these and improves your chances of success.
Once you have filled in the required information, have the documents reviewed by an expert before filing them in court. There are self-help centers and family law facilitators in San Diego who would be willing to review your paperwork at no cost. Again, it is vital to provide adequate and accurate information when filling in these papers to avoid making costly mistakes.
Once you are confident that all the paperwork is complete, you can submit the documents to the court clerk’s office. It is essential to keep a copy or two of every document you will be filing in court. Additionally, ensure that you pay the required filing fee to kick start the court process. If you cannot afford the filing fee, ask the court clerk about an application for a fee waiver. If you are prepared to pay, it is advisable to find out the amount and the payment methods accepted by the court beforehand. This will speed up the process for you.
After reviewing your application, the court clerk will keep the original documents and give you two copies. You are to keep one copy for personal records and serve the non-custodial parent with the other copy of documents. By serving the child’s parent with the papers, you inform them of your plans to adopt their child. It is always good to remain on talking terms with your partner even when you are undergoing a divorce. If not, you may need your attorney’s help to ensure that the non-custodial parent receives the papers in time.
It would be easier for you if the non-custodial parent granted you voluntary consent to adopt the child. California family courts have voluntary consent forms that you can send along with the other adoption papers. If the parent agrees, the court will not have to order them to give consent, and the process will be smooth.
Once the court receives your adoption request, a social worker will be sent to conduct a background investigation on your suitability as a parent to your stepchild. If the social-workers’ report is good, the court will schedule a hearing date for the adoption. The hearing’s outcome will determine whether or not the court will grant you parental rights over the child.
Find A San Diego Divorce Attorney Near Me
If you are filing for a divorce and you are an adoptive parent, there are legal matters you should familiarize yourself with as they could affect your parental rights. An experienced divorce attorney can break them down for your easier understanding. Your attorney can also advise and guide you through all legal procedures to ensure that your parental rights are not violated. At San Diego Divorce Attorney, we have a team of competent divorce attorneys willing and ready to help you out. Call us at 858-529-5150 and let us review your options.