Becoming a stepparent can be difficult, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. In some cases, stepparents seek to make their bond with their stepchild formal through adoption.
Whether it’s a stepchild or not, the act of adopting a child is a profound experience in many ways, but it is also a legal process with formal requirements and necessary procedures. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the details of adoption in general, and stepparent adoption in particular, under Virginia law.
Rights and responsibilities
Virginia law presumes that biological parents are the legal guardians of their minor children. This position comes with rights and responsibilities that carry on even if the parents divorce or were never married in the first place.
These rights and responsibilities generally carry on until the child reaches age 18, but can carry on longer. In some ways, the legal relationship carries on after the death of the the parents: The law assumes that parents will provide for their biological children in their estate after they die.
When someone becomes an adoptive parent, they assume all these rights and responsibilities.
In the case of a stepparent adoption, these rights and responsibilities will carry on even if the stepparent’s marriage to the biological parent ends in divorce or if the biological parent dies.
Under Virginia law, technically any person can petition to adopt a minor child. (An adult can adopt another adult under certain conditions.) A single person can adopt, but if the person is married, their spouse must also take part in the adoption.
This last requirement is a little different in the case of stepparent adoptions. If the stepparent is married to a parent of the child, then they must generally get the consent of the child’s other parent, if still living.
If the child is 14 or older, the child must consent to the adoption.
Generally, the child must live with the prospective parents for six months before an adoption can be finalized, but the court can waive that requirement in some cases.
Help through the process
There are a number of steps to go through before you can adopt your stepchild. It can be a difficult process. But, if you’re at this point, you’ve already gone through the hardest part: You’ve found someone to love and started to build a family with them. Attorneys can help you with the technicalities and formal requirements to make your adoption legal.