It is not uncommon today for birth parents to place their child for adoption with a close family relative. The procedures to adopt a family member are somewhat easier than procedures to adopt a non-relative.
Who is Considered a “Close Relative” in a Relative Adoption?
Not every relative is considered by Virginia law to be a “close relative.” The code provides that a close relative placement means an adoption by the child’s grandparent, great grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or adult great uncle or great aunt. No other type of relative qualifies, including a cousin. The spouse of the relative may also adopt under these provisions.
What are the Procedures?
Generally, a close family placement is subject to the same procedures as a non-relative parental placement adoption. However, the following exceptions are made if the child has been in the adoptive home less than three years:
1. The birth mother (or birth father) does not have to sign the Consent in Court in front of the judge. There is no hearing and no Guardian Ad Litem is appointed. However, the attorney for the adoptive parents must still make a court appearance in order to present the Home Study Report, the out of court Consents of the birth parents and the Order Accepting Consent and Transferring Custody.
2. The simultaneous meeting of the birth mother with the adoptive parents and the social worker who prepared the report is not required.
3. The six month probationary period is not required.
If the child has been in the home of the adoptive parents for more than three years, then the following applies:
1. The provisions for a non-relative parental placement do not apply, and Petition for Adoption may be filed in the Circuit Court without the need for a Consent Hearing in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court.
2. No Home Study is required, although the judge has the discretion to order one if he or she thinks that it would be appropriate.