Custody of an Adopted Child in a Divorce

Divorce always carries the risk of getting complicated when children are involved, and so a divorce involving a child who has been adopted by one or both of the parents can feel especially complicated. That said, California law is relatively straightforward with how adopted children are treated in a custody matter, at least in comparison to non-adopted children, and so the fact that a child is adopted should not necessary change the custody outlook based on that fact alone.

The Rights of Adoptive Parents in Custody Matters

Adoptions generally fall into one of two categories: 1) a stepparent who legally adopts the other parent’s biological child; or 2) two parents who are not biologically related to a child who adopt through a social service or agency. In either case, once the adoption is complete, California law will consider the adoptive parent to be a legal parent of the child, and any non-custodial birth parents will lose their parental rights.

What this means is that an adoptive parent should be treated like any other parent in the eyes of the law for purposes of custody. For example, if a husband adopted his wife’s biological son, then the husband would have the right to pursue custody rights as if he were the biological father, and the actual biological father will not have this same right.

Analyzing the Best Interests of the Child

That said, California will make a custody determination based on the best interests of the child, which incorporates a wide range of factors relating to the ongoing relationship between the parents and the child. Thus, if the adoptive father has only been in the son’s life for six months prior to the divorce, and the biological mother had raised the son for 15 years, then this would factor in favor of custody with the mother. But, it is important to remember that there a whole host of factors that the court will consider in analyzing the best interests of the child, and if other factors go against the mother - for example, substance abuse or a history of domestic violence - the court would consider those as well, and may ultimately award sole physical custody to an adoptive parent in such circumstances.

Get Help in Your Custody Matter

The Pasadena family law attorneys at Kearney Baker work with clients across Southern California in helping them reach the best possible results for parents and children alike. For help with any family law matter you are facing, please contact the experienced, compassionate family law attorneys at Kearney Baker today at 626-768-2945.