Certain close family members of a child (in Virginia “close relative” includes grandparent, great-grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or adult great uncle or great aunt) may adopt a child through an expedited procedure depending on the length of time that the child has been living with the close relative.
If the child has been living with the close relative less than two years, then the case begins in juvenile and domestic relations court. Close relative placements less than two years require the birth parents’ consent (or evidence that consent is not required). In these cases, a home study is required, a guardian ad litem must be appointed, and the court will conduct a hearing. The adoption will not be final until the circuit court enters a final order once consents are received in juvenile court.
If the child has lived with the close relative two years or more, the case begins in circuit court. In these cases, the circuit court will typically not require an order of reference initiating an investigation and report by the Department of Social Services, and no home study is required. Likewise, the circuit court may waive the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests.