How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Virginia: 3 Things You Must Know

Virginia adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in Virginia?

To adopt a stepchild in Virginia, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.

adopting a stepchild in Virginia

A stepparent may want to adopt their stepchild in Virginia for a variety of reasons. Among them include:

  • A formal relationship is established between the stepparent and the stepchild as a result of adoption, giving the stepparent the same rights and obligations as a biological parent.
  • Adoption can give the stepchild a sense of security and stability, knowing that they have a permanent family, by ensuring security and stability.
  • Adoption enables the stepparent to assist the stepchild financially and emotionally and to participate in deciding how to raise the child.
  • A sense of belonging can be fostered via adoption, which might give the stepchild the impression that they are actually a part of the family and not just a temporary addition.
  • Adoption also gives the stepchild the choice of adopting the stepparent’s last name, which can foster a sense of belonging and oneness.
  • In the event of any ensuing legal difficulties, adoption may offer the stepchild legal defense.

It’s vital to keep in mind that in Virginia, both the biological parent of the stepchild and the court must determine that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Virginia

To adopt your stepchild in Virginia you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.

Hire an Adoption Lawyer

It is not required to hire a lawyer in Virginia in order to adopt a stepchild. However, the legal process of adoption can sometimes be complex, so having a lawyer on your side can assist ensure that everything goes as planned and that everyone’s rights are upheld.

The legal prerequisites for adoption in Virginia, such as getting the biological parent’s consent and getting a court order for the adoption, can be navigated with the assistance of a lawyer.

They may also assist you in understanding your rights and obligations as a stepparent and how the adoption will impact your bond with your stepchild.

A lawyer can also assist you with any legal problems that crop up during the adoption procedure, such as disagreements over consent or inquiries concerning the child’s best interests.

Additionally, they can help you create court-required legal paperwork including requests for adoption.

Hiring an attorney can enable you to properly present your case to the court.

It can also allow you to have a better understanding of the legal system when the biological parent or any other parties involved in the adoption process oppose the adoption.

Visit here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Virginia.

Visit Your Local Courthouse

For information on the adoption procedure, stepparents in Virginia who want to adopt their stepchildren should contact their local courthouse.

In Virginia, there are numerous courthouses with self-help materials accessible, such as court form packets, which can give stepparents the appropriate documents and instructions for submitting an adoption petition.

Stepparents can learn important details about Virginia’s adoption laws, such as those pertaining to biological parent permission, the best interests of the child, and the court’s procedure for considering adoption applications, by going to their local courthouse.

In addition, the court officials can help you understand the different forms and fill them out appropriately.

They can also offer information on the court’s hearing schedule for adoptions and any other pertinent specifics pertaining to the adoption procedure.

Even while court form packets may be available at the local courthouse, it is still advised to speak with a lawyer to make sure everything goes according to plan and that all legal criteria are satisfied.

Find a local Virginia courthouse near you.

Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service

In Virginia, a stepparent who wants to adopt their stepchild can get the necessary paperwork through a service. These services offer court documents that can be used to file for adoption and can be found by searching the internet for “stepparent adoption forms.”

Court form provider services can be a practical choice for stepparents who want to adopt their stepchild because they offer the required paperwork and filing guidelines in an easy-to-understand style.

Although these services offer court forms, it is important to remember that they cannot and will not offer legal advice.

Purchasing paperwork through these businesses won’t replace the legal counsel offered by an attorney.

These forms may have errors or omissions that can have an impact on the adoption process because they are not customized to the particular needs of the case.

Additionally, you must make sure that the forms you purchase are unique to the state of Virginia because the adoption procedure can differ from one state to another.

Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Virginia.

Adoption Process

In Virginia, submitting an adoption petition is usually the first step in the process of a stepparent adopting their stepchild. Before submitting the petition, the stepparent must have lived in Virginia for at least six months.

The petition for adoption must be filed, a home study and background check are conducted, the biological parent must consent, their rights are terminated, and the adoption must then be finalized.

Filing of the Petition for Adoption

In Virginia, the stepparent adoption procedure begins with the filing of the petition for adoption. The circuit court in the county where the stepparent resides must receive the petition. If the child’s biological parents agree to the adoption, they must sign the petition alongside the stepparent.

The stepparent must have lived in Virginia for at least six months prior to submitting the petition.

The following details must be included in the petition:

  • The stepparent, the child, and the biological parent’s names and addresses
  • When and where the child was born
  • A declaration indicating the child’s biological parent has given their consent to the adoption and that the stepparent is willing to do so
  • A copy of the child’s birth record
  • Any court orders pertaining to the child, including maintenance or custody decrees
  • Findings from the stepparent’s background investigation

The petition must be filled out precisely, completely, and carefully because the court may reject one if it is incomplete or wrong.

The court will designate a case number and set a hearing date once the petition is submitted. The date of the hearing will be mailed to the stepparent, the child, and the biological parent.

Any additional parties with an interest in the case, such as the child’s other biological parent or a guardian ad litem, will also receive notice of the hearing from the court.

Home Study and Background Check

The stepparent adoption procedure in Virginia includes a home study and background check. The home study, which is an assessment of the stepparent’s home and family life, is frequently carried out by a social worker or another expert. The home study’s goal is to make sure the child will be raised in a secure, caring environment.

Usually, the home study procedure entails:

  • An interview with the biological parent and the stepparent
  • A visit to the stepparent’s residence
  • Reviewing the stepparent’s financial and job history
  • Reviewing any criminal or child abuse history
  • Inquiring about any prior experience with parenting or adoption
  • Obtaining any other pertinent information

The stepparent’s background will also be investigated as part of the home study.

To ensure that the stepparent does not have a history of any actions that could endanger the child, the background investigation will involve a search of criminal records, child abuse and neglect records, and any other pertinent information.

The results of the background check and home study will be included in the petition for adoption, which could take several weeks to complete.

The stepparent might need to resolve any difficulties found during the background check or home study before the adoption can move forward.

While a home study and background check are necessary as part of the stepparent adoption procedure, they are not intended to be roadblocks but rather to guarantee the child’s safety and well-being.

Consent of the Biological Parent

The biological parent of the child must agree to the stepparent adoption in Virginia. This indicates that a consent form must be signed by the biological parent approving the adoption.

The permission form must be completed and signed in front of a judge or notary public before being submitted with the adoption petition to the court.

The consent document will normally be signed by the biological parent of the child if they agree to the adoption.

The court may, however, cancel the biological parent’s parental rights if they refuse to agree, allowing the adoption to proceed without their approval.

If the child’s biological parent is incapable of giving consent, for instance, if they are disabled or have passed away, the court will also take that into account.

The court in these situations will decide if it is in the child’s best interest for the adoption to go through.

The stepparent will take over legal parental duties for the child if the biological parent’s rights are terminated, along with all the rights and obligations that go along with that position.

In some situations, the other biological parent’s approval may also be necessary if that parent has legal custody or other parental rights to the child.

The court will take into account all relevant circumstances, including the child’s best interests, while making its judgment, despite the fact that the biological parent’s agreement is a necessity in Virginia’s stepparent adoption procedure.

Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights

In the Virginia stepparent adoption process, the court may revoke the biological parent’s parental rights if they are unable or unwilling to approve the adoption. As a result, the child’s legal tie with the biological parent will be permanently dissolved, and the stepparent will take the place of the biological parent.

A biological parent’s rights will normally only be terminated by the court if it is judged that doing so is in the child’s best interest.

When making this decision, the court will take into account a number of considerations, including:

  • Relationship between the biological parent and the child
  • The capacity of the biological parent to meet the requirements of the child
  • The child’s requirement for a secure and long-term household
  • Any history of maltreatment, abandonment, or abuse by a biological parent

Parental rights termination is a serious matter, and the court will weigh all available information, including a home study and background check, before making a determination.

The stepparent will take over legal parental duties for the child if the biological parent’s rights are terminated, along with all the rights and obligations that go along with that position.

Remember that the termination of parental rights is a legal procedure that can include a hearing.

The biological parent is entitled to notice of the hearing and the opportunity to appear in person to challenge the termination of their rights.

The court’s ruling may be appealed by the biological parent as well.

The court will weigh all relevant considerations, including the child’s best interests, before deciding whether to terminate parental rights because this is a serious step.

Finalization of the Adoption

The conclusion of the adoption is the last step in the Virginia stepparent adoption procedure. When the court issues the final adoption decree, the stepparent is formally recognized as the child’s biological parent.

The court will schedule a final hearing after the petition for adoption is submitted, the home study and background check are completed, and the biological parent’s consent is secured or their rights have been terminated.

The court will consider all the information at the final hearing before deciding whether or not to approve the adoption.

The hearing will normally need the presence of the stepparent, the child, and the biological parent if their rights have not been terminated.

The court will issue a final order of adoption if it finds that the adoption is in the child’s best interests.

This decree ends the child’s legal relationship with the biological parent and recognizes the stepparent as the child’s legal parent.

The stepparent will have all the duties and powers of a legal parent upon the issuance of the final decree of adoption, including the authority to make decisions about the child’s welfare, education, and medical care.

The adoptive child will have the same legal rights as a biological child upon the adoption’s legal completion, including the ability to inherit and the right to support from the adoptive parent.

Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.

Should I Adopt My Stepchild?

A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, should I adopt my stepchild?

You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.

If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge.

It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.

It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.

At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward.

Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.

If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild.

Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.

Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.

After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.

No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce.

If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.

Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?

It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?

You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.

You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.

Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Virginia

Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.

If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit Virginia Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.

Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.

Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.

You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.

Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.

Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent

Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.

How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.

There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.

If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.

When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations. Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.

What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption? States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child.

However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.

States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.

A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?

Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their home? There are many things that can deem a parent unfit.

In order for a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support for a very long time, usually a year.

If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.

However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.

Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them

Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to give permission to be adopted.

Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.

I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!

And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.

And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.

What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in Virginia?

Stepparent adoption is not the same as a “traditional” adoption. There will be no home study or appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child.

The Department of Social Services isn’t even going to write a report.

Instead, the stepparent and spouse must file a petition with the circuit court and produce proof of one of the eight conditions listed above, as well as:

  • A draft final order for adoption
  • A completed Virginia State Form VS-21
  • The applicable filing fees

The final order of adoption should be signed and given to the applicant within a few weeks if all of the documentation has been properly prepared and completed.

Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Virginia?

A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Virginia. This is providing the stepchild has been living with the stepparent for at least five years.

Younger children are not required to give their consent.

You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.

Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot.

Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.

Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?

Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to.

Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.

Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in Virginia?

Under citation Ann. Code §§ 63.2-1202; 63.2-1241, a father’s consent to an adoption in the state of Virginia involves the following.

Consent shall be executed by:

  • Any man who:
    • Is an acknowledged father under § 20‑49.1
    • Is an adjudicated father under § 20‑49.8
    • Is a presumed father
    • Has registered with the Putative Father Registry

No consent shall be required if:

  • A birth father denies, under oath and in writing, the paternity of the child.
  • The birth father is convicted of rape, statutory rape, incest, or an equivalent offense of another State or any foreign jurisdiction, and the child was conceived as a result of such violation.
  • Any person has had his or her parental rights terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction.
  • A birth parent, without just cause, has neither visited nor contacted the child for a period of 6 months prior to the filing of the petition for adoption.

Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.