In an adoption, parental rights are transferred from the natural or birth parents to the adoptive parents. Adoption is a legal arrangement; the adoptive parents become legally responsible for the child they adopt and they obtain all legal parental rights with regard to the child. This legal proceeding is so complete that a new birth certificate is issued for the child. It shows the adoptive parents’ names as the child’s mother and father at the time of birth. The original birth certificate is retained but sealed, so it can be accessed only by court order.

There are four types of adoptions of children under age 18 in California: relinquishment or agency adoptions, independent adoptions, inter country adoptions, and stepparent adoptions.

Most of the laws and regulations concerning adoptions are applicable to so-called stranger adoption or unrelated adoption. That is, people seek out a child to adopt through an acquaintance or an agency. Inter country adoptions are similar to adoptions completely within the United States, but additional requirements and procedures apply.

Adoption may take place within a family. This kind of adoption sometimes is called a relative adoption. A stepparent who is responsible for providing the care, love, discipline, and guidance for the children of his or her spouse may formalize the relationship by adopting the stepchildren. As with any adoption, this can happen only if both natural parents agree.

In California, it is possible for an adult to be adopted by another, older adult. Generally, parental consent is not required and there is no requirement of a study or report, unless a court orders such information in special cases.


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