Adoptions are filed at the family law division located on the second floor of the Historic Courthouse. Adoption is a legal arrangement by which the adoptive parents become legally responsible for the child they adopt and obtain all legal parental rights with regard to the child.
At the hearing, the parent(s) and child(ren), if over the age of 12, formally consent to become lawful members of the same family. The hearing is the final stage in granting a permanent home to a child. Adoption proceedings are informal; family and friends are welcome to attend proceedings and photographs may be taken with the judge’s permission.
Due to strict laws regarding the confidentiality of records, case-specific information will not be given over the telephone, because proper identification cannot be established.
The self-help center is located on the first floor of the Historic Courthouse. The phone number is (209) 533-6565.
Types of Adoption
Agency Adoption: The adoption of a child, other than an international adoption, in which the California Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency is a party to, or joins in, the adoption petition.
Independent Adoption: The birth parents select the adoptive parents and place the child directly with them. Custody is transferred directly between the parents, rather than through an agency.
International Adoption: A child born outside of the United States is adopted by adults living in the United States. The adoption procedure is conducted by a private agency.
Stepparent Adoption: A stepparent petitions the court for adoption of the child of his or her spouse. A domestic partner desiring to adopt a child of his or her domestic partner may also file for adoption under this procedure.
Adoption of Adults and Married Minors: An adult may be adopted by another adult, including a stepparent, and a married minor may be adopted in the same manner as an adult.
ADULT ADOPTION FAQs
An adult adoption is when someone adopts a person who is over 18 and not related to them. The person adopting must be at least 10 years older than the adult they are adopting.
How do I adopt an adult?
You must file these documents with the court:
2. Consent and agreement of the parties.
3. Consents of spouse of the filing parties (if any).
5. Request to set a hearing with a self addressed stamped envelope.
How do I file my petition?
The petitioners, (this means the adoptive parent and the adoptee), must file a petition. This is the document that asks the court to make an order approving the adoption. It must say:
The name, age, date, and place of birth of the petitioners.
How long the petitioners have known each other.
Why the petitioners want the adoption to take place.
If either petitioner is married, the name of the spouse (if any), the date of their marriage, and the names and ages of their children. If spouses have signed consents to the adoption, list their names and dates they signed the consents.
The date your adoption agreement was signed.
Whether the adoption is in the public interest.
The Adoption Agreement
This is the agreement between the person to be adopted and the adoptive parent. Both must sign and date the agreement. The agreement must say you both agree to assume the legal relationship of parent and child and all the duties and responsibilities of that relationship.
You must also agree to file a petition in the Superior Court of California, County of Tuolumne. Your petition must ask the court to approve your agreement and to make an adoption order. You do not have to notarize the agreement.
Order of Adoption
To finalize the adoption, you must file your request to set hearing to get a court hearing. If the judge approves your adoption, the judicial officer will sign an order of adoption.
The order must contain all the information that is in the petition and agreement. Both petitioners must go to the hearing. The biological parents do not need to consent to the adoption. But, if either petitioner is married, you must have their spouse’s consent.
When you file your papers for an adult adoption, you can also submit the request to set hearing at the same time.
Is the hearing confidential?
Yes, all adoption proceedings are heard privately. Friends, family, and cameras are always welcome.
How do I get ready for the hearing?
Bring the order of adoption and any consent(s) that you did not file previously. Both the proposed adoptive parent and adoptee must be at the hearing.
How do we ask for an amended Birth Certificate?
You must file an amended birth certificate form with the court on or before the final hearing date. You can get this form from the probate division of the Superior Court, County of Tuolumne.
After the adoption is final, the probate clerk’s office will mail the amended birth certificate to the State Registrar at the Department of Health Services in Sacramento. You will get an amended birth certificate in about 9-12 months.
AGENCY ADOPTION FAQs
What is an agency adoption?
An agency adoption is when parents adopt through a licensed private adoption agency. The adoptive parents and birth parents can meet and get to know each other.
Birth parents who work with an agency to place their child, must give up their rights as parents to the agency. Then, the agency is legally responsible for the care and custody of the child until the child is adopted.
In an agency adoption either the Department of Social Services or a licensed adoption agency asks the court for permission for the adoption. This process usually takes about 6 months to complete
What is a licensed adoption agency?
It is an agency that is licensed by the Department of Social Services. The agency is legally responsible for the child until the adoption is final.
The adoptive parents usually take care of the child during the adoption process. But, the agency can take the child away from the adoptive parents at any time before the adoption is finalized.
What if a birth parent does not give up their parental rights?
The agency will ask a lawyer to request that the court terminate the birth parents' rights. The court may order the Tuolumne County Social Services Agency to investigate and make a recommendation to the court whether or not the parental rights should be terminated and continue with the adoption proceedings.
You can call the Department of Social Services at: (209) 533-5717.
Can the adoptive parents obtain medical information about the child and the birth parents?
Prior to the adoption, the adoptive parents will receive a copy of the child's medical history. The birth parents may give a blood sample, although it is not required. If they do, a state-licensed laboratory will store it for 30 years after the adoption. The sample cannot be used to identify any party to the adoption. It is only kept so the adoptive parents or the adopted child can do DNA testing later, after the adoption is final.
Do all adoptive parents in an Agency Adoption have to do a home study?
Yes. The home study includes:
1. A home visit;
2. Letters of reference from people who know the prospective adoptive parents;
3. A letter from a medical professional to confirm the adoptive parents do not have any life-threatening or life-shortening illnesses;
4. Confirmation of employment status and income; and
5. Finger printing to check if the adoptive parents have ever been convicted of a crime other than a minor traffic violation.
How long does it take before an Agency Adoption is final?
The adoptive parents must wait 180 days after the child is placed in their home before the adoption can be finalized. This is so the licensed adoption agency can do a post-placement monitoring of the child in the new home and get the documentation that the birth parents have given up their parental rights or their rights have been terminated.
How is a licensed Agency Adoption different than a Private (Independent) Adoption?
A licensed adoption agency documents when the biological parents give up their parental rights. (This is called relinquishment of parental rights.) Unlike an independent (private) adoption, the agency does not have to wait 30 days once the relinquishment is signed. In an agency adoption, you must complete the home study before the child is placed in the adoptive parents’ home.
INDEPENDENT ADOPTION FAQS
What is an Independent Adoption?
An independent adoption (also called an Open or Private Adoption) is when the birth parents and the adoptive parents make an agreement that the adoption should go forward. There is no adoption agency involved.
The natural birth parents can meet the proposed adoptive parents. The biological parents give the child to the adoptive parents, usually at the hospital when the child is born. They also decide if they want to have contact with the child after adoption is final.
The law says the adoptive parents must be at least 10 years older than the child being adopted. If the child is already born, the parents can give the child to the adoptive parents during the adoption proceedings. The adoption proceedings usually take about 6 months to complete.
How do I start an Independent Adoption?
Once the birth parent(s) who want(s) to let you adopt his/her/their child, you must arrange for an adoption service provider (ASP) to meet with the birth parent(s).
Contact the State Department of Social Services to get a list of adoption service providers in your area.
The adoption service provider will meet with the birth parent(s) to review procedures, forms, and options. After the child has been placed with the adoptive family, and 10 days after the first meeting with the adoption service provider, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parent(s) can sign the adoption placement agreement.
What does the Adoption Placement Agreement mean?
The adoption placement agreement gives the birth parent(s) the right to change their mind any time within 30 days of the signing of the adoption placement agreement. If this happens, the adoptive parents agree to return the child to the natural birth parents.
On the 31st day after the adoption placement agreement is signed, the agreement is final and cannot be revoked.
During the 30-day period, the birth parent(s) may, if they want to, sign a waiver to give up their right to reclaim the child. To do this, the birth parent(s) must contact the State Department of Social Services to schedule a meeting with a Social Worker to sign a waiver.
What do I do after the Adoption Placement Agreement is signed?
After the adoption placement agreement is signed, you must file the petition for adoption in the probate clerk’s office in the Historic Courthouse on the second floor. The clerk will ask you to pay a filing fee. Fees are listed under "petition for adoption" on the probate section of the fee schedule on the courts’ web site.
Send an endorsed-filed copy of the adoption petition to the Department of Social Services. They will then send you a letter saying they have received your petition and provide instructions as to what to do next.
What else do I need to do?
The Department of Social Services needs other documents, too:
A certified copy of the child's birth certificate.
A certified copy of your marriage license (if applicable).
A certified copy of your divorce decree (if applicable).
The Department of Social Services will tell you about other forms you need to submit when you contact them.
What is involved in the Home Study?
A social worker will come to your home at least twice to do a home study. The home study includes:
At least two visits to your home to meet with you and the child.
Letters of reference from people who know you.
A letter from your doctor to confirm you do not have any life-threatening or life-shortening illnesses.
Confirmation of your marriage (if you are married), employment status and income.
Finger printing to check if you have ever been convicted of child abuse or other crime.
What happens after the Home Study?
At least six months after you file the adoption petition, the Social Worker will issue a Final Report. In most cases, the social worker recommends that the judge grant (approve) the Adoption Petition.
Before the hearing, you must complete the following forms and turn them into the probate clerk’s office. You must submit your request to set hearing to obtain a hearing date. Give the clerk the original and two copies.
Click here for forms:
How do I get ready for the hearing?
Get to court 20 minutes early and let the clerk or bailiff know you are there. Bring the child with you.
Your hearing will be private in the courtroom or the judge's chambers. You and the judge will sign the Adoption Agreement. You will sign the Adoption Expense form and the judge will then sign the Order of Adoption.
What do I do after the hearing?
You will receive certified copies of your Order for Adoption at the conclusion of your hearing. Send a copy of each form to the social worker who did your home study and keep the extra copies for your records.
STEPPARENT ADOPTION FAQs
How do I file for a Stepparent Adoption?
Fill out an Information Sheet and Questionnaire. You can get this form from the probate clerk's office, or on our local website. Click HERE for adoption forms: You must file your documents in the probate clerk’s office located in the Historic Courthouse on the second floor.
Get consent from the biological parent who is giving up custody of the child.
If the other parent doesn’t want to sign a consent form, file a petition to end their parental rights. If that parent is the mother or a presumed father, file an abandonment petition freeing the child from parental custody and control. If the other parent is an alleged father, file a termination petition terminating the parental rights of alleged father.
Home Visit and Investigation
The Court Investigator will contact you to schedule a home visit. Thee child will be interviewed as well, so be sure to explain to the child that you are trying to adopt him/her.
Before the Hearing
When you get your file-stamped copy of the Stepparent Adoption report, file your Request for Hearing to get a court hearing.
If the other parent did not give up his/her rights, or if the court has not ended his/her rights, you must file a Petition to Terminate Parental Rights first before you schedule your adoption hearing.
If you can’t locate the other parent and he is a presumed father, you must publish the notice in an adjudicated newspaper. Click here for further information.
The stepparent, the custodial parent and the child must go to the adoption hearing. Get to court 20 minutes early and let the clerk or bailiff know you are there.
If you didn’t already file these forms, bring the originals and two copies of your forms to your hearing:
OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
My child has been living with someone else for over one year, and now they want to adopt my child.
If you do not want your child to be adopted and you have not had contact with your child for over a year, you must contest the adoption.
You must file a written objection to inform the prospective adoptive parents, their lawyer, and the court that you do not agree with the adoption.
An investigator may contact you to see if you will sign a consent form, or the adoptive parents may try to end your parental rights.
Can I visit my child after the adoption?
If you are related to the proposed adoptive parents, and everyone agrees, you can sign a post adoption contact agreement that allows you to contact the child, while the child is growing up.
My ex-spouse has a child from our marriage, and now s/he and the new spouse want to adopt him/her.
They cannot adopt your child without your consent. But, if you have not had contact or supported your child for more than a year, the new spouse can ask the court to end your parental rights.
Do the parental rights of the biological parents have to be ended in every adoption?
Yes. The only exception is for adult adoptions.
How do I end the parental rights of the mother?
If the mother will not give her written consent to the adoption, (or if she does not give up the child for adoption), the adoption cannot move forward unless the court ends her parental rights. You must file a petition to terminate parental rights. The most common reason for a judge to end the mother's parental rights is that she has abandoned the child.
Abandonment is when a mother leaves her child with anyone who is not the father for six months or more, or when she leaves the child with the father for one year or more, with little or no communication with the child.
A judge may also consider failure to pay child support as an intent to abandon a child. There are other reasons that a judge will end the mother’s parental rights, including habitual drug use or a felony conviction.
Can I get copies of documents from the court file?
Adoption files are confidential. Only the adopting parent(s) can get copies of court documents related to the adoption.
A presumed father is a man who was married to the birth mother, or has lived with the birth mother, and the child and has told other people that he is the father. There are other factors, too.
A presumed father has the same rights and responsibilities as the birth mother. The adoption cannot proceed without the presumed father's consent.
An alleged father is a man who is identified by the mother as the possible birth father. An alleged father is not married to the birth mother, and has not lived with the child and the birth mother after the child was born.
An alleged father must be notified about the adoption petition. But, if after a diligent search, the alleged father cannot be located, the court can end his parental rights.
The alleged father can consent to the adoption, waive notice of the proceeding or sign a denial of paternity. If the alleged father refuses to do any of these things, the court can end his parental rights.
A presumed father is a man who was married to the birth mother, or has lived with the birth mother and the child and has told other people that he is the father. There are other factors, too.
A presumed father has the same rights and responsibilities as the birth mother. The adoption cannot proceed without the presumed father's consent.
Termination of Parental Rights
If your parental rights are ended (terminated), you have no more legal rights over your child and you are no longer responsible, financially or otherwise, for the care of your child.
If a court ends your parental rights, you can appeal the decision. You must file your appeal within 60 days after the court has entered the order ending your rights.
To view a complete listing of local forms click HERE
To view a listing of Judicial Council forms for adoption and/or probate matters, click HERE