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Step-Parent Adoption In Virginia

In this age of divorce, remarriage and “blended families,” it is common for a new step-parent to adopt a step-child and assume parental rights for that child. Virginia law accommodates this practice and makes it a relatively simple process, provided the parent who would be terminating parental rights is either deceased, is willing and able to consent to the adoption or is completely unknown.

How to adopt a step-child in Virginia

Virginia Code Section 63.2-1241 outlines the legal procedures for “adoption of child by spouse of birth or adoptive parent.” This code also states that potential adoptive step-parents must file for adoption in Virginia Circuit Court. The “custodial parent” must also join the petition, which demonstrates their approval of the adoption.

If the other birth parent is deceased or an unknown person, the adoption will likely move forward. If, however, the other birth parent is a known individual whose current whereabouts are unknown, the process becomes more complicated. Your experienced Virginia adoption attorney can help locate the other birth parent, who must sign consent to the adoption.  If this consent is received, then the adoption may proceed.

If the other birth parent does not consent to the adoption, or if a last known address cannot be located for them, this further complicates the matter, and a hearing before a judge must be scheduled.  The judge will then consider all the factors in the adoption case, including, but not limited to:

  • Abandonment: If the other birth parent has not had any contact with the child for at least six months prior to the adoption petition, “clear and convincing evidence” of abandonment may be brought before the court.
  • Contest of the adoption: If the birth parent whose parental rights would be terminated by the adoption appears at the hearing, they must contest the adoption on the ground that it would not serve the best interests of the child, and must prove through evidence why that is the case.

Darrell M. Harding, Attorney at Law has helped Norfolk, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach area families with the adoption process for more than 20 years.

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