Adopting your spouse’s child is a wonderful experience but sometimes the legal and emotional issues can feel a bit overwhelming. The purpose of this article is to ease that anxiety and provide you with some basic information about the step-parent adoption process in Virginia.
There are typically two scenarios which lead to a step-parent adoption. The first situation would occur when the child’s biological parent is deceased and the surviving parent subsequently marries. In this type of scenario, the step-parent, along with the biological parent, files the following documents in the Circuit Court where the child resides:
- A Petition for Adoption
- A Final Order of Adoption
- Form VS-21 (Report of Adoption)
- Form VS-6 Application for Certification of a Vital Record with identification and payment attached
In most instances, the final order of adoption will be entered in one month of the filing and without a hearing. If the Court processes the VS-6 form, then you should expect to receive a new birth certificate for the child, naming the step-parent as a parent, within six to eight months.
Other ways people find themselves considering a step-parent adoption may include:
- A biological parent abandons the child for a period of more than six months
- The court has previously terminated the rights of the noncustodial parent
- The birth parent consents to the adoption
- The noncustodial parent has been convicted of certain crimes
The first step is to terminate the parental rights of the noncustodial parent. This termination of rights may be done either by consent of the parent, under oath and in writing, or after a hearing before the court on why termination is in the child’s best interest.
Note that terminating parental rights is not easily done. If consent is given, then an investigation by a child placement agency may, in the court’s discretion, be waived. However, if consent is not given, then the investigation will occur. Once this occurs, the procedure is the same as outlined above.
The best course of action is to consult with an attorney prior to taking any of the steps outlined above to determine the most efficient strategy for completing the adoption process. If you live in Winchester, Staunton, or surrounding areas of Virginia, please call 540-277-9588 to schedule a consultation at the Harrisonburg office of Hoover Penrod PLC today.