Monday, September 23, 2013
Guest Post by B. Robert Farzad: California Adoption and Its Impact on Ongoing Co-parenting and Visitation Rights
California adoption seems simple enough. The adoptive parents adopt the child and take over all parental obligations. Generally, that is the way it works. From the time the adoption takes place, the adoptive parents typically take over the formal and legal relationship of being parents to the child. That legal relationship means one hundred percent of the rights and one hundred percent of the duties that go with it.
Separately, the birth parents of the adopted child are relieved of all of their parental duties and responsibilities and no longer have any parental rights over the adopted child.
California Family Code 8616 and 8617 are helpful reading on this topic.
That is the general rule. Are there exceptions? In this article, we will discuss a couple.
First, let’s be clear on what section 8617 states:
“The birth parents of an adopted child are, from the time of the adoption, relieved of all parental duties towards, and all responsibility for, the adopted child, and have no right over the child.”
Clear enough right?
But now let’s look at something called “second-parent adoption”. One of the leading California cases on the subject is called Sharon S. v. Superior Court. It’s a 2003 California Supreme Court decision. In that case, the Court held:
“Most people who place their children with unrelated adoptive parents presumably desire to be "relieved of all parental duties towards, and all responsibility for, the adopted child," as section 8617 declares, once the adoption is final. But, as noted, section 8617 neither prohibits a birth parent and another qualified adult from jointly waiving application of the statute in order to coparent an adoptable child, nor prohibits a court under such circumstances from ordering an otherwise valid adoption.”
See what the Court did? The Court essentially stated that, under certain circumstances, the biological and adoptive parents can choose to agree to a different set of rules than laid out in section 8617 by “jointly waiving” it. Of course, it is very important to get experienced adoption lawyers involved to make sure the correct language is drafted and signed and clearly states the intent of all of the parents.
The second way is a “kinship adoption agreement.” These can get complicated but the basic premise is, under specific circumstances, biological parents and other birth relatives can continue to have contact and even visitation after the child is adopted if a proper kinship adoption agreement is approved by the court in the actual adoption proceeding.
Reading Family Code section 8714.7 is a good starting point for understanding such agreements.
So it seems ongoing visitation rights as a result of an adoption are not always black and white. Both the adoptive and biological parents have options available to them and we have briefly discussed two of those in this article.
About the Author: B. Robert Farzad is a divorce and family law attorney and president of Farzad Family Law, APC. He loves helping spouses and parents through difficult chapters of their lives. Have questions, contact him at 1851 East 1st Street, Suite 1150, Santa Ana, CA 92705. (714) 937-1193.
Nothing contained in this article is intended nor should it be construed as legal advice. This article only discussed certain aspects of California law. Please consult with an attorney in your State if you have any legal questions about your specific situation or case.