Adopting without a Lawyer is known as adoption, "Pro Se".
Basically, you need a home study and a baby to start the process. Have the agency who did the home study submit it to the court. Once that's done, you can file the Adoption Request form, which gets the legal process rolling.
After that, you contact the court for a hearing, which will finalize the adoption. At that time, you can also file for a birth certificate with the adopting parents' names on it. At the hearing, you will be required to bring a few forms, which can be downloaded from here.
For "official" information, you can read Sacramento Co. Court and Cal Courts Self-Help Center.
- Adoption Request [form ADOPT-200; 3 pages] - Also known as "Petition for Adoption", this paper tells the judge about you and the child you want to adopt. Fill it out and file it with the court clerk in the county where you live. Filing fee: $20.
- Adoption Agreement [form ADOPT-210; 2 pages] - This paper tells the judge you agree to adopt the child. If the child 12 years old or older, he or she must say if she or he agrees. Fill out this paper, but do not sign it until the judge says so.
- Adoption Order [form ADOPT-215; 2 pages] - The judge signs this paper if your adoption is approved. After the judge signs it, file this paper with the court clerk.
- Adoption Expenses [form ADOPT-230; 2 pages] - This form tells the court about hospital and other bills you have paid related to the adoption.
- Contact After Adoption Agreement [form ADOPT-310; 2 pages] - OPTIONAL - only required if it is an open adoption. Tells the court what kind of contact the birth mother will have with the child.
In every adoption, an investigator writes a report (known in some parts of California as a "home study"). This report gives important information to the judge about the adopting parents and the child. The investigator will come out to your home and ask you questions. You may also be asked to fill out some papers and provide copies of your records. In some adoptions, the investigator may decide to talk to others, such as your neighbors or teachers at the child's school.
Often this is done prior to being matched with a birth mother. After a match is made, you can contact the agency who performed the home study and ask them to send a copy of the study to the court. The investigator will file the home study with the court and send you a copy.
Once the home study has been sent to the court, you can ask the court clerk for a date for your adoption hearing.
Go to court on the date of your hearing and bring:
The child you want to adopt.
Adoption Agreement [form ADOPT-210].
Adoption Order [form ADOPT-215].
Adoption Expenses [form ADOPT-230].
Contact After Adoption Agreement [form ADOPT-310]
A camera, if you want a photo of you and your child with the judge.
If this is a INDEPENDENT, AGENCY, OR INTERCOUNTRY adoption:
1) Complete the Petition for Adoption [form ADOPT-200] and file it in the county in which you reside. Sacramento County residents can file at:
Family Law Filing Counter
Room 100 of the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse
3341 Power Inn Road
Sacramento, 1/2 mile south of Folsom Blvd.
The filing counter is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding court holidays. When setting an adoption hearing, you must bring two copies of the filed adoption petition. The court will retain one copy and the clerk will return the other copy to you.
For more information on adopting a child, call the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services Adoption Program at (916) 875-5967.
2) Make sure that all consents, accounting reports, relinquishments, and/or termination of parental rights procedures are complete.
3) After a Petition for Adoption and Adoption Report have been filed, you may proceed with setting an adoption hearing
Adopting without a Lawyer (Pro Se)
After your child is placed with you, your adoption counselor will visit your home for a post-placement visit and will write a report. Your counselor will tell you how many post placement reports (home visits, office visits, or telephone contacts) are necessary before it is time to finalize your child's adoption in court. Please note: usually all fees must be paid before you may proceed with finalization.
When your counselor has written the final post placement report, your agency will recommend that the adoption be finalized. You will need to obtain written consent from the agency that has legal custody of your child.
After your agency receives the consent, you must finalize your child's adoption in your county court. Let your finalization coordinator at your agency know you are going to finalize Pro Se and ask that the paperwork (including the consent) either be sent directly to you or to your county court. (You will need to provide them with the court address). It is better if you can have the court paperwork sent directly to you because then you can personally deliver it to the court house and know when it got there.
Very often your adoption agency will require you to notify them of your finalization date and request a copy of the "Adoption Decree".
Fill Out Forms
- Adoption Request [ADOPT-200]
- Order Directing Filing of Placement and Post-Placement Reports (Order Appointing Next Friend)
- Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law
- Note For Hearing on The Adoption Calendar
- Decree of Adoption
Have the form Adoption Request [ADOPT-200] notarized.
When you have filled out all of the forms, take the following forms to the clerk of the county court:
- Notarized Adoption Request [ADOPT-200]
- "Order Directing of Placement and Post Placement Reports"
- "Consent from your Agency"
You must also take the filing fee, which varies, but has been reported as being around $110. Take cash. Be prepared to wait for a judge to sign your "Order Directing Filing of Placement" and "Post-Placement Report". Note: Do not leave until you know these forms have been signed by the judge. Some courts set aside a specific block of time for judges to sign documents. The clerk can tell you how to get the order signed.
The clerk will assign a case number to your case. The case number is used for all of the other forms. Request forms to order a birth certificate for your child, and ask the clerk how much it will cost and how it should be paid for when you file for it.
After filing the forms "Order Directing Filing of Placement" and "Post Placement Reports", call or write your agency and ask that your "Placement and Post-Placement Report" (aka Next Friend Report) to be sent to the court. Ensure that they are also sending the "Adoption Data Card". The "Adoption Data Card" is required by the State to obtain a birth certificate.
Note: If your agency knows that you are doing a Pro Se adoption, they may ask if you want the "Placement and Post Placement Report" and the "Adoption Data Card" be sent to you. This is okay, but you must ensure that they get to the court and are filed with your case number. Tell the agency the case number and the address of the county court.
Ask for a copy of the letter your agency sends to the court along with your "Placement and Post-Placement Report". Your agency should be familiar with this process. Allow about two weeks before you receive a copy of the letter or verify over the phone that they have forwarded their report to the court.
At least two weeks prior to your requested court date, take the form "Note For Hearing on the Adoption Calender" to the clerk with the date requesting your hearing. The court will probably require at least a two-week notice. This document has been replaced in some courts by a pre-printed form, which you fill in and make your request on. Ask the clerk if they have a pre-printed form.
On your court date, take the forms:
- "Decree of Adoption"
- "Findings of Fact and Conclusion of Law"
- "Birth Certificate Forms" (to order the birth certificate)
- "Adoption Data Card" (If the Agency sent it to you)
Bring your checkbook. You may also want to bring your Camera to record the event. Most Judges enjoy doing adoptions and are more than happy to have their picture taken with you and your child.