Legal Relationship with my birth parent terminated with a California Adult Adoption?

Many people ask, will a California Adult Adoption terminate, erase or cut-off my legal relationship with my birth parent, mom or dad? 

To answer that question you need to look at California Family Code sections 9306(a), 9306(b) and the new section California Family Code 9306(c), which took effect on January 1, 2020.

The default or starting point of the law is at California Family Code 9306(a) which in summary provides, when an adult adoption is completed, the birth parents of the newly adopted adult are relieved of any and all parental duties, responsibilities, and rights to and over the adopted adult. This means that the legal relationship will be terminated, erased or cut-off, but there are two important exceptions below:

California Family Code 9306(b) provides that if an adult is adopted by the spouse of a birth parent, there is no change in the rights, duties, and responsibilities of that birth parent.  This would apply to the standard stepparent relationship, whether they are currently or formerly married to the birth parent.  As an example, if Stepfather (stepdad) raised Stepson (or Stepdaughter) while married to Birth Mother, and Stepfather then adopts the Stepson or Stepdaughter (Adoptee) as an adult, the relationship between the Adoptee and Birth Mother is not changed. 

This is true even if the Stepfather and Birth Mother are no longer legally married - based on a reasonable interpretation of the Preliminary Provisions in California Family Code section 11, which states:  A reference to “husband” and “wife,” “spouses,” or “married persons,” or a comparable term, includes persons who are lawfully married to each other and persons who were previously lawfully married to each other, as is appropriate under the circumstances of the particular case.  

So what happens with non-traditional families where a the couple never legally married, but a partner raised the child as his/her own and now wants to adopt as an adult? This is a very common life situation in our modern society.  Finally, yes it took them until the year 2020, the California Legislature got around to providing a mechanism to protect the birth parents legal rights/responsibilities. 

The new California Family Code section 9306(c) now provides: An adult being adopted pursuant to this part may waive the termination of the parental duties and responsibilities of an existing parent or parents under subdivision (a) by signing a waiver at any time prior to the finalization of the adoption. The waiver may be included in the adoption agreement or in a separate writing filed with the court. This is now being called a 9306(c) Waiver of Termination of Parental Duties and Responsibilities.  There is no standardized Court form for this waiver that has been developed yet.

An important fact in the plain language of California Family Code section 9306(c) is that it only waives the termination of the parental duties and responsibilities of an existing parent or parents.  The plain language of California Family Code 9306(c) does NOT maintain the existing parent's rights to and over the adopted adult.