Virginia law allows a stepparent to adopt a stepchild by filing in circuit court to adopt their spouse’s child by birth or adoption. While the process is similar to other kinds of adoptions, stepparent adoptions have discrete requirements in Virginia.
Stepparent adoptions are the only statutory exception to the rule that adoption terminates parental rights. A stepparent adoption may, but does not have to, include the termination of the parental rights and responsibilities of the child’s other birth or adoptive parent.
Ideally, the other birth parent of the child consents to the proceeding. When an acknowledged, adjudicated, presumed or putative birth parent refuses to consent, the Court must determine whether or not the consent is required (i.e., whether the other parent has abandoned or is withholding consent contrary to the child’s best interests). If the parent fails to appear at the hearing after being notified and served, the Court may also find consent is not necessary. Additionally, under Virginia law, there may be other circumstances in which consent is not required.
Yes, you can ask the Court to approve a name change for the child in the petition.
From filing to final order, a stepparent adoption usually takes anywhere from one to four months, depending on whether the case requires litigation of consent issues.
The judge may waive the requirement that he refer the matter to the Departmtent of Social Services for an investigation and report. Likewise the court may waive the appointment of a guardian ad litem to advise the Court of the child’s interests.