When one hears the word “adoption,” they likely think about a couple adopting a young child in need of a loving home and care. However, there are many other circumstances in which adoption makes sense — including the adoption of an adult stepchild to legally validate a family bond.
For those considering adopting a stepchild who is over 18 years of age, here’s how to do so in Virginia.
According to Virginia law, there are a few instances when adopting an adult is permitted, such as a stepparent wishing to adopt their adult stepchild. This is permitted only if the stepparent has taken on the role of parent (also known as standing in loco parentis) for the child for at least three months prior to their 18th birthday.
Unlike the adoption of a minor stepchild, the natural parents of the adult are not legally required to consent to the adoption (though the adult’s parent may choose to complete a Natural Parent Affidavit to express their support for the decision). However, the adult to be adopted must provide their consent under oath using a special court form.
Legally cementing the relationship between a stepparent and their child is important to many blended families, especially if the stepparent has been part of their life for many years. Although adopting an adult stepchild is often more of a symbolic gesture than one that ensures parental rights (as in the case of adopting a minor stepchild), there are still a few benefits to making this bond official.
One of the most common reasons that people choose to adopt an adult child is linked to inheritance. It is much easier to ensure assets, finances, and/or property is passed on to someone who is a legal family member, especially if you experience an untimely death without a valid Will. A legal family bond is also important in the event of incapacitation, as next of kin are typically the ones who can make medical and financial decisions (in the absence of a signed power of attorney). This being said, if the adopting stepparent has an existing estate plan or is planning to prepare a Will or Trust, it is extremely important the adopting step-parent review his or her existing documents to ensure that they does not contain a definition of “issue” or “heir” or “descendant” such that the adopted child (and their descendants) may be precluded from inheriting if adopted after the stepchild was twenty-one (21).
In Virginia, a petitioner for a stepparent adoption case involving a child over the age of 18 must complete and file the appropriate paperwork, including:
- Petition for Adoption, signed and notarized by the petitioner. Typically, the stepparent and their spouse (i.e. the adult’s natural parent) petition the court together for the adoption.
- Natural Parent Affidavit. Though it is not required to complete the adoption of a person over age 18, at last one birth parent typically signs and notarizes a Natural Parent Affidavit.
- Consent Under Oath by Adult Adoptee, signed and notarized by the person being adopted.
- Final Order of Adoption, completed and notarized (except for lines where a judge needs to fill in details).
- Civil Case Cover Sheet for Filing Civil Actions, also called form CC-1416.
All these forms will need to be filed with a clerk of the appropriate Circuit Court. In addition to the above forms, petitioners should also include a photocopy of a current marriage certificate and a photocopy of the adult child’s birth certificate. The Final Order of Adoption will be entered by the Circuit Court if all required documents have been completed and filed correctly. Once that Order is entered, depending on where the adopted child was born, there may be a need to complete a vital records form, called a VS-21 Form in Virginia, in order to update the adult child’s birth certificate and obtain a certified copy of the new birth certificate – needed to obtain a new/updated driver’s license, passport, social security card, voter ID card, etc.
To make the process of petitioning for the adoption of an adult child easier and more accessible, My Legal Case Coach provides DIY legal case form packets that can be filled out by both parties. We also offer a free one-hour coaching session with the purchase of any case form packet to help you customize your documents, solve any issues that may arise, and ensure all forms are filed correctly with your local court.
Schedule your free 15-minute consultation to discuss your situation and whether our legal case form packets and coaching services are right for you.