Make Your Stepchild Legally Yours
Step parenting is common in today’s society, but for some step parents, this designation is simply not enough to define their relationship with the child(ren) of their spouse. In Virginia, the process of adopting a stepchild can prove challenging if you don’t understand the specific requirements of the court.
Under Virginia law, there are two major requirements you must meet before filing a step child adoption petition.
- Your spouse (the biological parent of the child) must agree with your desire and be included as a joint petitioner. This shows the court that your spouse consents to your adoption of the child.
- The second requirement involves the consent of the other biological parent and you can meet it in a number ways, including:
- Stated consent to the adoption
- The parent is deceased
- The other parent is the father and he refuses to admit paternity of the child
- The identity of the other parent is unknown by sworn statement of the biological mother
- The child, who is 14 years old or older, has resided in the household of the stepparent for a minimum of 5 years
In situations where the other parent refuses consent, the court may still grant the adoption. After hearing the merits of the case, the judge may determine that the adoption is in the child’s best interest, over the objections of the parent.
Compared to a traditional adoption, the process of a stepparent adoption is significantly easier if both biological parents are in agreement. The initial petition must include evidence that the other parent is either deceased, gives consent or meets one of the other requirements listed above. If the judge is satisfied with the merits of the petition, a final decree of adoption is signed and issued. It is very important to submit a complete and legally comprehensive petition because, in some rare incidents, the judge may request more information or investigation into the case. When this occurs, the judge may summons the parties to appear before the court and provide sworn testimony.
It is important to note that a stepparent adoption may affect other aspects of the parenting arrangement. For example:
- The other parent is no longer required to pay child support
- The family of the other parent is still considered family of the child under Virginia law. Only the rights of the parent are terminated.
If your family is considering a step parent adoption, call the attorneys of Shannon and Bedois for an evaluation of your case. These compassionate lawyers have the knowledge to guide you through the process. Contact the office at (757) 228-5529.