How to Handle a Contested Stepparent Adoption in Virginia

Patricia TichenorLegal

If you have a biological child from a previous relationship and got remarried, you may have considered having your new spouse adopt your child. A stepparent adoption can give your spouse permanent parental rights and legally cement your family bond.

As part of this process, your child’s other biological parent must sign an affidavit giving their consent (if they are living and their identity is known) – but what happens if your ex contests the adoption? Here’s a guide to how stepparent adoption works in Virginia and how to navigate the process if your child’s other parent opposes the petition.

How does stepparent adoption work?

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, stepparent adoption involving two living biological parents and a stepparent is a straightforward process, assuming the parent whose rights will be terminated consents to the adoption. In such a case, no court hearing is required; the parties simply need to fill out the proper forms and file them with their local Circuit Court.

Filling out the right documents

A stepparent who is looking to adopt their spouse’s child will need to fill out the following forms:

  • Petition for adoption. This form is a petition for the stepparent to adopt a minor child or children born to their spouse during a previous marriage or relationship.
  • Natural parent affidavit. The affidavit is a sworn statement stating that the natural parent of the child is terminating their legal parental rights to the petitioner and their spouse.
  • Final order of adoption. This document completes the adoption and legally grants the stepparent co-custody of the child, once signed by a judge.
  • Virginia Civil Cover Sheet (Form CC-1416). – This is a standardized document for the court to reference your case and must be filed with any Virginia civil case.

Filing your forms

After these forms are completed, you’ll file them in person with the closest circuit court in your area. The filing fee for this paperwork ranges between $20 and $40 and can be paid by a check or credit card.

Once you receive your final order of adoption, the Virginia Department of Vital Statistics (VS)-21 form must be completed and filed to finalize your child’s adoption and establish an updated birth certificate with their new parent’s name on it.

If you are planning to represent yourself in a Virginia stepparent adoption case, My Legal Case Couch can provide you with the proper forms, instructions on how to fill them out, and one (1) hour of complimentary legal coaching to walk you through the process. We also offer additional prepaid blocks of coaching time for further guidance.

What happens in a contested stepparent adoption?

In a contested stepparent adoption, a minor child’s biological parent (typically the father) opposes the adoption of their child by the other parent’s new spouse. The other parent (if living) must consent to this adoption for it to be finalized, stating that it is in the best interest of the child.

According to Virginia law, if one biological parent refuses to consent to the adoption by the other birth parent’s new spouse, the court shall determine if that consent is withheld in the best interest of the child. This requires an evidentiary hearing for the opposing parent to state their case of why a stepparent adoption is not in the best interest of the child.

Because a contested stepparent adoption case must be heard before a judge, one or both parties may opt to hire legal representation or consult a professional legal coach to better understand how to approach the situation. Ultimately, both sides must be able to articulate why their desired outcome is best for the minor child(ren) involved.

Get help with your DIY stepparent adoption case

A DIY stepparent adoption can become complicated, especially if the other biological parent contests the adoption. If you’re a stepparent seeking to establish parental rights over your spouse’s child, schedule a 15-minute call with My Legal Case Coach to learn about the process and how we can support you.