The California Family Code was amended on 1-1-2017 allowing private agencies to do stepparent investigations, reducing the time to complete a stepparent adoption.
Stepparent Adoptions Require an Investigation
All stepparent adoptions require an investigation (of the adopting parent - the spouse of the parent retaining their parental rights). Each county has a person or department assigned to do these investigations, and their cost varies county-by-county. The maximum fee is $700 and many counties charge this (Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange), while others charge less (Riverside: $344; San Diego $270, for example).
Who Can Do the Investigation?
Prior to 1-1-2017, Family Code section 9001 allowed each county to additionally accept investigations by private adoption agencies or licensed clinical social workers. Few counties accepted them, however.
Section 9001 was changed on 1-1-2017. It now requires each county to accept investigations by private adoption agencies and licensed clinical social workers. Counties no longer can require adopting stepparents to use the county investigator.
What Is the Advantage to Using a Private Adoption Agency or LCSW?
The county investigators are usually overworked and slow in approving a stepparent adoption. It is not unusual for them to take 6-12 months to submit their final report. Private adoption agencies and LCSWs, however, are usually much, much faster. In fact, most can complete their investigation within only 3-4 weeks. (assuming there is no delay due to not having the consent of the absent parent). This saves 5-11 months.
When the final report is filed, your attorney can request the final hearing date, which varies by the county you live in, but most involve only a 4-8 week wait for an available court date.
The only disadvantage is that most private adoption agencies and LCSWs charge $700, even if the county fee is less in some counties. Most adopting stepparents, however, feel the time savings is worth the few extra hundred dollars. And in some counties, the fee is already $700, so a private adoption agency or LCSW won't even cost more for the extra speed.
Not all private adoption agencies or LCSWs are equally good, however, so use an attorney who specializes in stepparent adoptions who can tell you the best and fastest agencies or LCSWs in your area.
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