With the most recent changes in the law, same sex couples now have the same rights as heterosexual couples do. What does that mean for same-sex adoption in Virginia? Same sex couples can now adopt children just as heterosexual couples could already do under existing Virginia adoption laws. In this blog we will explore this topic in more detail.
Two Basic Tracks for Same-Sex Adoption in Virginia
In Virginia, adoption follows two basic tracks. These tracks are either adopting a child together, or step-parent adoption. How do each of these tracks work?
- Adopting a Child Together: Virginia’s existing adoption statute already allows a single unmarried parent or married couples to adopt. But now the definition of married couple includes a same-sex couple. First, a home study must be conducted. The home study can be conducted by an agency or by parental placement adoption. In this case, the child does not need to live in or even be from Virginia. The child’s age is irrelevant as well. Children can be adopted out of the foster system, and non-resident couples can adopt in Virginia together, whether or not they are a same-sex couple.
- Step-Parent Adoption: If one parent already has children, then the other parent can adopt their spouse’s children. Second parent adoption bills never passed into law, but this track essentially functions as the same. However, a major difference is that in general, the two parents do not need to be married. An unmarried couple cannot benefit from the existing step-parent adoption law, since it would not apply to them.
Some Details of Same-Sex Adoption in Virginia
- As long as the legal parent of the child or children is the only legal parent, step-parent adoption is not difficult. This is only so if there is not another biological or legal parent who would have to consent to the process first. No hearings or appointments of guardian ad litem are necessary. If the Petition for Adoption is arranged properly, the court can then proceed directly to what is known as an Order of Final Adoption.
- The non-legal parent attempting to become a legal parent also cannot be convicted of any crime. Being convicted of a crime, any crime, would by necessity disqualify them from being eligible to adopt the child.
- The court requires acceptable proof that the legal parent is in fact the only legal parent prior to the adoption process. The sole legal parent must also prove they have the authority to initiate this decision. This proof may include evidence of a sperm donor signing a document of release, or that the other legal biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated, or that the other legal biological parent was already predeceased.
- The successful completion of this portion of step-parent adoption makes the second parent the official parent of the child. Therefore, the child’s birth certificate is updated to reflect this change.
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