Stepparent Adoption: An Overview of Virginia Adoption Proceedings


Are you a stepparent who is looking to adopt your stepchild? Stepparent adoptions are very common these days, with the prevalence of second marriages and blended families.

 While some people might think that adoption is not necessary, your desire to adopt your stepchild can go a long way to strengthen the bonds in your family from a legal and emotional perspective.

Stepparent adoption involves several legal processes, which could be difficult to navigate without legal knowledge.

At Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, we believe “Family is not defined by our genes; it is built and maintained through love.” We can guide you through the complexities of the adoption process and work to help you overcome the legal hurdles standing in your way.

In this piece, we discuss the stepparent adoption process in Virginia and how a family lawyer from our law firm can answer your questions and guide you every step of the way. 

Why Consider Stepparent Adoption?


Stepparent adoption occurs when a stepparent adopts their spouse’s child. The process allows them to transition from being stepparents into parents in every sense of the word. 

Adoption by a stepparent benefits blended families in many different ways. 

It formalizes the relationship between the stepchild and the stepparent. Once the adoption is granted, the stepparent will become the child’s legal parent and have parental rights (including financial and legal responsibility) similar to a biological parent.

 The adopted child will have the same legal rights as any biological child of the stepparent. This means that they have the right to ;

  • Inherit the stepparent’s assets when they die( especially if the stepparent dies without a will)

  • Seek child support even if the marriage between their birth parent and the stepparent crashes

  • Use the stepparent’s last name.

  • Access other benefits that are available to natural-born children of the stepparent.

This helps to create a sense of security for the child and helps them to understand that they are loved and wanted. 

The Stepparent Adoption Process Summarized


Filing the Petition for Adoption

To begin the stepparent adoption process, you’ll need to file a joint petition with the child’s custodial birth parent or adoptive parent (who is your spouse) in the circuit court where you and the child’s birth parents live or in the county or city where the child resides. 

The petition should express your desire to adopt the child. If you intend to give the child your last name, the petition should also state that. 

Notice and Consent

Usually, when a petition for the adoption of a minor is filed in Virginia, the court refers the case to a licensed child-placing agency or the Department of Social Services for investigation.

In such cases, they must determine whether the petitioner for adoption can provide for the child in all ramifications. The outcome of the investigation will be submitted as a report to the court and used to determine whether or not the adoption petition will be granted.

However, in stepparent adoption, this procedure may be dispensed with, and the court may make an order of adoption if any of the following circumstances are present;

  • The child’s other birth parent is deceased 
  • The child’s other parent consents to the adoption in writing and under oath
  • The presumed birth father denies paternity
  • The birth mother swears in writing and under oath that the birth father of the child is unknown
  • The child was adopted, and the adoptive parent (the stepparent’s spouse) was unmarried at the time of the adoption
  • The child is over 14 and has lived in the stepparent’s home for at least five years.
  • The adoption is for an adult stepchild. 

Consent to the adoption by the child’s other parent is crucial in stepparent adoption cases because stepparent adoptions terminate biological parents’ rights over the child. They would lose custody and the right to make decisions about that child to the stepparent. Therefore, they must be notified about the adoption petition so they can decide whether or not to give consent.

What Happens if the Other Parent Does Not Consent? 

Suppose the child’s other parent withholds consent; that does not mean that adoption is impossible. The adoption can still proceed if the court determines that the refusal to consent is contrary to the child’s best interests. Before deciding such cases, the court may refer the matter to the Department of Social Services for investigation. 

Is There a Court Hearing Before the Final Adoption Order Is Granted?

If the other parent contests the adoption or the court has ordered an investigation, a court date would be set to hear the parties. At this point, it is important that you provide solid evidence showing that the child’s interests would be best served by the adoption so that the court can make a final adoption order in your favor. 

Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC Can Help

While the stepparent adoption process may sound simple, legal guidance from an experienced family law attorney could help you get the best results. Preparing the petition and going through the adoption hearing (where required) calls for the knowledge and experience of a lawyer to ensure that the petition meets the legal standards and to convince the judge to act in your favor. 

At Ashwell & Ashwell, PLLC, our experienced lawyers can assist and guide you through stepparent adoption. For years, we have helped individuals and families in and around Warrenton, VA, resolve their family law issues without stress. We can do the same for you as you strive to solidify the bond in your blended family.

Contact us today to get started. 

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