Remarrying and starting a new family is an exciting time in most people’s lives. Many families have adopted the terms “bonus children” or “bonus parent” to highlight the happiness that comes from an expanding family. Stepparents can and often do take on an important and involved role in children’s lives. Sometimes the stepparent is more involved and a better influence than one of the biological parents. In these situations, many parents want to learn about the possibility and likelihood of the stepparent adopting the child.
Stepparent adoption is the most common type of adoption. The process involves multiple steps which can be executed with relative ease depending on the willingness of the biological parent.
The first step in any stepparent adoption is to address the rights of the biological parent. If the parent has been absent from the child’s life for an extended period of time, at least six months, then the parent may be willing to consent to the adoption. If that is the case then paperwork can be prepared in which the biological parent relinquishes his or her parental rights in favor of the stepparent adoption. If the biological parent’s whereabouts are unknown or the biological parent refuses to consent, then measures must be taken before the court can grant the adoption. If the biological parent’s whereabouts are unknown, then notice of the adoption hearing must be given through “publication” in a newspaper.
Our adoption attorneys can quickly and easily process the paperwork necessary to address the rights of the biological parent or for notice by publication.
A biological parent does not have to consent to the adoption, and the objection of the biological parent does not necessarily mean that the adoption cannot be granted. A court can order the adoption without consent of the biological parent if the court finds that (a) the biological parent’s consent is unavailable (because he or she did not appear) or (b) the biological parent is withholding consent against the best interests of the child and a continued relationship between the biological parent and child would be detrimental to the child.
If the biological parent objects to the adoption, a hearing is necessary. Typically, the court will require an investigation or homestudy of the parents, the adoptive parent, and the home in which the child resides. The investigation is completed by the Department of Social Services or a private organization approved by the Court. The information obtained in the investigation is used at the hearing to assist the court in determining the best interests of the child.
If a hearing is necessary, the court will consider a number of factors in determining whether to terminate one biological parent’s parental rights and allow the child to be adopted by a stepparent. These factors include (1) the efforts of the biological parent to obtain or maintain legal and physical custody of the child, (2) whether the biological parent is currently ready and able to assume custody of the child, (3) whether the biological parent’s efforts to assert parental rights were thwarted by other people, (4) the biological parent’s ability to care for the child, (5) the age of the child, (6) the quality of any previous relationship between the biological parent and the child, (7) the quality of any relationship between the biological parent and any other children, (8) the duration and suitability of the child’s present custodial environment, and (9) the effect of a change of custody on the child.
An adoption trial can be legally complicated and emotionally draining. Having the assistance of an attorney who can review the circumstances of your case, inform you of what facts best highlight your case, and then present those facts in a concise manner to the court, is of paramount importance.
The adoption attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C. are experienced with every facet of stepparent adoptions, and represent clients in Fairfax, Manassas, Woodbridge, Prince William County, Stafford, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Alexandria, Arlington, and all of Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.