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Stepparent Adoption in Virginia
When it comes to divorce, some of the biggest questions occur after the judge has entered the final divorce decree. As a parent, you may have questions about parenting rights—especially if a stepfather or stepmother enters the scene. If a long-term relationship between a stepparent and a child has been established, the stepparent can begin the stepparent adoption process.
In Virginia, there are certain laws to which stepparent adoptions must adhere. By consulting a professional, stepparents can make sure they are properly preparing for the progression of the adoption. At Graham Law Firm, PLLC, our team of trusted family law attorneys can help you navigate the adoption process. Call 703-687-6817 to learn more about our services or schedule a consultation today!
What Is Stepparent Adoption?
According to the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, a stepparent adoption involves the legalization between the stepparent and the child of his or her spouse. Once the adoption is finalized, the stepparent will gain financial and legal responsibility of the child.
In order to do so, the spouse of the stepparent must consent to the adoption. Additionally, one of the following situations must apply:
- The second birth parent or adoptive parent is dead
- The second birth parent or adoptive parent agrees to the adoption
- The second birth parent is the father of the child and denies paternity
- The first birth parent is the mother and swears under oath that she isn’t sure who the father is and that his identity cannot be reasonably discovered.
- The child is the result of surrogacy and the second birth parent consents to the adoption
- The stepparent’s spouse is the adoptive parent of the child and was unmarried at the time of the original adoption
- The child is 14 years old or older and has lived in the stepparents’ home for a minimum of five years
- The second birth parent or adoptive parent doesn’t consent to the adoption but the court determines this is not in line with what is best for the child
Keep in mind that when a stepparent adopts a stepchild, the non-custodial parent’s legal relationship with the child will be severed.
How Does a Stepparent Adopt a Stepchild?
A stepparent can file a petition in the circuit court of the county where the birth parent and his or her spouse live or in the county or city where the child resides—this can be done under Code of Virginia § 63.2-1241. This joint petition must be filed by the stepparent and the spouse.
In the case that the biological parent does not consent to the stepparent’s adoption, the court will ultimately determine whether or not to order the adoption.
So how does the process work? A stepparent adoption is very different from a “normal” adoption. There will not be a home study, nor will there be guardian ad litem appointed for the child. In fact, the Department of Social Services will not even create a report. Instead, the stepparent and spouse must submit a petition to the circuit court and provide evidence of one of the eight previously mentioned situations along with:
- A draft Final Order for Adoption
- A completed Virginia State Form VS-21
- The applicable filing fees
If all of the paperwork is prepared and completed properly, the Final Order of Adoption should be signed and returned to the applicant within a few weeks.
Family Law Attorneys in Northern Virginia
It can be stressful to navigate the stepparent adoption process. Between filling out paperwork, knowing your rights, and understanding the stepchild adoption laws, there’s a lot to manage. By consulting a professional family law attorney, you can rest assured that you’ll get the guidance you need. At Graham Law Firm, PLLC, our award-winning team of divorce lawyers and family law attorneys takes pride in providing services to residents in the Northern Virginia area. Our lawyers specialize in:
- Divorce Litigation
- Divorce Mediation
- Collaborative Divorce
- Contested Divorce
- Uncontested Divorce
- Cruelty Divorce
- Desertion Divorce
- Adultery Divorce
- Military Divorce
- Equitable Distribution
- Division of Marital Property
- Spousal Support
- Marital Agreements
- Prenuptial Agreements
- And more
With over 23 years of experience, we are licensed to practice family law in the state of Virginia and the District of Columbia. To schedule a family law consultation for stepparent adoption, contact Graham Law by calling 703-687-6817 today!