The adoption process can be confusing for biological and adoptive parents because it is governed by complex rules and procedures in Virginia. Moreover, there are many circumstances that lead people to seek adopting a child(ren) or giving up a child(ren) for adoption.

In the context of family law, the discussion of adoption generally occurs in blended families. If the biological parent remarries, the biological parent and the new spouse or step-parent may want the step-parent to adopt the biological parent’s child(ren). This is known as a step-parent adoption.

Step-parent adoption makes the step-parent an equal legal parent the same as if the child(ren) was the biological child(ren) of the step-parent. The step-parent has all the same rights and obligations that a biological parent does regarding the child(ren), including making decisions with regard to the child(ren)’s medical, religion, and education. Additionally, the step-parent’s name will be placed on the child(ren)’s birth certificate. In the event of divorce, the step-parent also has the right to have custody and visitation with the child(ren) and has the obligation to pay child support.

If the biological or legal parent is the sole legal parent of the child, then a step-parent adoption is not as complex as the normal adoption process would be because the biological parent and the step-parent have less hurdles to overcome in order for the step-parent to adopt the child(ren).

In Virginia, the court may order the proposed adoption and change of name without a hearing or the appointment of a guardian ad litem if:

  • The biological parent or parent by adoption, other than the biological parent or parent by adoption joining in the petition for adoption, is deceased;
  • The biological parent or parent by adoption, other than the biological parent or parent by adoption joining in the petition for adoption, consents to the adoption in writing and under oath;
  • The acknowledged, adjudicated, presumed, or putative father denies paternity of the child(ren);
  • The biological mother swears under oath and in writing that the identity of the father is not reasonably ascertainable;
  • The child(ren) is the result of surrogacy and the biological parent, other than the biological parent joining in the petition, consents to the adoption in writing;
  • The parent by adoption joining in the petition was not married at the time the child was adopted; or
  • The child(ren) is 14 years of age or older and has lived in the home of the person desiring to adopt the child for at least five years.

However, if an acknowledged, adjudicated, presumed, or putative biological parent or parent by adoption of a child(ren) does not consent to the step-parent adoption, the court shall determine whether consent to the adoption is withheld contrary to the best interests of the child(ren). This may mean that the court may order the local department of Social Services to visit a family and make a report to the court to aid the court in determining whether or not the consent to the adoption is withheld contrary to the best interests of the child(ren).

The attorneys at The Carlberg Law Firm know the emotional challenges biological parents and their spouses go through in deciding on whether or not to pursue a step-parent adoption. Our attorneys are able to assist you in determining whether or not a step-parent adoption is achievable given your circumstances, and if so, assist you in finalizing the adoption.