As might be expected, Step Parent Adoption is the most common form of adoption.
Unfortunately, a large percentage of men who father a child and are not married to the mother never really accept parental responsibility. They may have little or no contact with the child and fail to provide child support. Eventually the mother gets married and her husband becomes a father figure to the child.
In such circumstances, it is in the best interests of the child to make this relationship a legal one. Many mothers in these circumstances live in fear that the birth father will suddenly show up and demand his rights when the child no longer knows him and the mother lacks confidence that he can properly care for the child.
What is the process of a Step Parent Adoption in Virginia?
The first necessary step is to obtain the legal Consent of the birth father. If his place of residence is known, a Consent is mailed to him with a polite letter asking him to sign and return it. About half of uninvolved birth fathers will sign a Consent, if for no better reason than to terminate their child support obligation. In most counties and cities in Virginia, no Home Study is required when the birth father consents, and the final Order of Adoption may be obtained quickly.
What if the Birth Father will not Consent?
If the birth father cannot be found, he can be served with notice by publication in a newspaper. If he can be found but refuses to consent or cooperate, he will be served with formal notice of the adoption proceedings. If he takes no action, the adoption will be entered without his consent.
The Adoption Attorney may also recommend utilizing the Virginia Putative Birth Father Registry, as another means of dealing with the birth father’s rights. If his identity is not known, and the Registry is searched without revealing that any man has registered as the father of the child, then a publication may not be required.
Any time a Consent cannot be obtained, the court will require a Home Study of the mother and step father to be conducted by the Department of Social Services.
What if the Birth Father actually objects?
A court can still approve a Step Parent Adoption even if the birth father contests it, but only after a trial, and only if the court finds that the adoption is in the best interests of the child. This is not something which is done lightly. But mere refusal to consent does not by itself prevent the adoption from taking place.
If you have questions about Step Parent Adoption in Virginia, please send me an e-mail at [email protected] I will try to address any questions you may have. If you would prefer, please call my office to schedule either a telephone or office consultation.