A quick review of websites advertising stepparent adoption reveals that most attorneys or document preparation services who advertise their prices offer a low “flat fee” for most stepparent adoptions. It’s important to remember that the fee listed is most likely just for an uncontested adoption, where the non-custodial parent can both be located and is willing to sign a consent to the adoption. In those cases, the only other costs in addition to the attorneys’ fees is the mandatory stepparent investigation (In California it’s currently $700.00 in most counties) and the filing fee (in most California counties the court filing fee is currently $20.00; in Los Angeles County it’s an outrageous $160.00). Since the consent form may have to be notarized or signed in front of an agency representative, there may be the cost of paying for the consenting parent’s costs to have it notarized as well.
In many, if not most, cases however, the non-custodial parent either has been gone so long that they can’t be found easily if at all or they are unwilling to sign a consent. The unwillingness to sign a consent doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to fight the adoption (most don’t), but just that they don’t want to actively cooperate. It’s at this point that prices vary widely and that you will almost certainly need an attorney, not just a document preparation service or paralegal, to represent you in your efforts to have the court terminate the non-custodial parent’s parental rights. Many attorneys charge hourly for these services and bills can easily be very high very quickly. At Adoption Law Group, we offer flat fees for termination actions as well, so you can have a fairly good idea of how much our fees might be before you start the process. If a non-custodial parent actually shows up at the first hearing to contest the adoption, we then reevaluate your case with you. At that time, you can choose to either hire an attorney who specializes in litigation, since we do not, or, in the case of clear-cut cases requiring little litigation, you have the option to execute a new, hourly fee agreement with us. In all cases, we seek to be totally upfront about anticipated costs. Our sincere belief is that finances should not be a barrier to successful adoption!