Stepfamilies are very common in today’s society. In fact, according to Stepfamily.org, more than half of U.S. families are remarried or re-coupled, and 1,300 new stepfamilies are forming each day.
As a step-parent, you’ve likely formed a strong bond with your spouse’s children. Petitioning for a step-parent adoption can cement your familial relationship from a legal standpoint, and offer important rights to both you and your step-children.
If you’re interested in going through with a step-parent adoption in Virginia, here are six points to consider as you embark on the legal journey.
1. You must be legally married to the child’s parent.
In order for a Court to order a step-parent adoption, the non-biological parent (petitioner) must be married to the child’s mother/father.
You will need to provide proof of marriage as well as proof of the other parent’s consent to the adoption, if living, unless the step-child is 18 years of age or older, in which case the child can consent on their own to the adoption. Additionally, you’ll need to decide whether you plan to change the last name of the child(ren) as a result of the adoption.
2. You have equal rights to the child if you get divorced.
In the event that you and your spouse divorce after the step-parent adoption is complete, both of you will have equal rights to the children, since you are both their legally-recognized parents. It’s important to discuss this before moving forward with the adoption, so there aren’t any misunderstandings if the marriage doesn’t work out.
3. If the child is 18 years or older, they may consent to their own adoption.
While adopting a minor stepchild typically requires the written consent of the other biological parent (if living), an adult child can consent to their own adoption by a step-parent. To do so, they must complete, sign and notarize a Consent Under Oath by Adult Adoptee, which is filed with your Petition.
4. The court can order a step-parent adoption, even if the other biological parent does not consent.
There are some cases in which a minor child’s other biological parent does not consent to an adoption by their step-parent. However, if the Court determines that the adoption is ultimately in the best interest of the child, a judge may order the adoption anyway.
5. There are many legal benefits of step-parent adoption.
Adoptions can truly change a child’s life in the best way. Here are some benefits of step-parent adoptions you might not have considered:
- The bond you’ve developed will be legally recognized.
- In the event of disability or death of a biological parent, the step-parent can become a legal guardian.
- The step-parent can make emergency decisions for the wellbeing of their stepchild.
- The stepchild will receive equal inheritance and other legal rights as the stepparent’s biological children.
While you already know you’ve created a loving family, being acknowledged by the court can help bring you even closer together by securing legal rights. You can learn more about filing a step-parent adoption case in our blog post on this topic.
Get help with your DIY step-parent adoption in Virginia
The legal forms needed to begin your step-parent adoption petition may vary depending on your family’s circumstances. If you’re beginning a DIY step-parent adoption case, we encourage you to take our 30-second quiz to discover which of our case form packets is right for your needs.
Once you’ve selected and purchased your packet, schedule your free hour of 1-to-1 coaching with a licensed Virginia attorney to help you prepare your forms. We also offer additional pre-paid and hourly coaching sessions if you would like more guidance with your case.
Have questions? Schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation to discuss your case and learn if My Legal Case Coach’s services are right for you.