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Can I Adopt My Step Children?

When a parent remarries, the new spouse often serves as a surrogate parent and develops a close relationship with any children living in the home. In certain circumstances, the relationship is even closer than the children have with their other natural parent. In such situations, it may be desirable for all parties involved to make it official and have the stepparent be legally declared the child’s parent.

A stepparent adoption occurs when birth parents (or adoptive parents) marry and desire their new spouse to become the legal parent of their child. The adoption can occur with or without the consent of the other natural parent. This is a good step to take when the child’s other natural parent has become estranged from the child either emotionally or geographically or is an otherwise unfit parent.

If this is the case, all parties may desire for the stepparent to become the actual “parent” of the child. If so, stepparent adoption should be utilized to accomplish the transfer of parental rights. In Virginia, this has the effect of permanently terminating the estranged parent’s rights and obligations to the child and, at the same time, legally designating the stepparent as the child’s parent.

When both natural parents consent, the process is relatively easy. The stepparent files a petition for adoption in the state circuit court. Written consent of the other natural parent is required, if he or she is living. The court will usually then finalize the adoption.

When the other natural parent does not consent to the adoption or can’t be found, additional requirements must be met. The stepparent should file for a court order waiving the consent requirement. In order to get a court order approving the adoption, the stepparent must present evidence demonstrating their attempt to obtain consent and why it wasn’t obtained. In addition, it must be demonstrated that the natural parent has abandoned his or her parental responsibilities and adoption is in the child’s best interests. In these types of cases, the court will usually order an investigation.

If stepparent adoption is in your future, consult with an attorney to guide you through the process.

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