The presiding judge of Los Angeles County's court system announced Thursday a new process that allows for the finalization of uncontested adoptions without the need for a court appearance.
Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile noted that there are 212 uncontested adoption cases on hold since the court transitioned to prioritizing emergency and time-sensitive matters during the coronavirus pandemic.
“With just one more step, these parents will be able to finalize their forever families without delay,” Brazile said in a statement released by the court.
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The new process -- which could be replicated statewide -- will help parents and their adoptive children quickly and efficiently get final court approval of their cases, with adoptive parents required to sign a stipulated, notarized adoption agreement, declarations and other Judicial Council forms by mail, court officials said.
Judicial officers will sign the adoption paperwork in their chambers after court employees check to ensure that all of the forms have been completed correctly, and the final, file-stamped order will be sent by mail to the parents' attorneys, according to the court.
Applicants may choose to wait to appear in court, but it will likely be months before in-person adoptions will be held, according to the court.
“These happy in-person proceedings are cherished and celebrated by parents, children, judicial officers and court employees,” Brazile said. “But with the social-distancing requirements in place in our courthouses to slow the spread of COVID-19, this easy, model process offers a convenient, safe alternative to coming to a courthouse.”
The presiding judge lauded the Judicial Council, Alliance for Children's Rights and Public Counsel for their “insightful contributions to help the court design and implement this innovative stipulated procedure.”
Brazile noted that Public Counsel and Alliance attorneys have adoption packets and instructions on how to complete the process, which is part of the court's Here For You/ Safe For You initiative to provide a safe courthouse environment while offering services that allow court business to be conducted remotely to reduce the number of people appearing at courthouses.