The Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark decision on June 26, 2015 when Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015) allowed for same-sex marriage in all fifty states. What this opinion did not address, however, was parentage of children born into those same-sex marriages or legal rights of non-birth parents to children born into those marriages through assisted conception.
Under Virginia law, a marriage creates a presumption of parentage. Virginia Code § 20-158 states that the gestational mother or “birth mother,” and the spouse of a birth mother, are the two parents of a child resulting from assisted conception. This allows for a birth mother and her wife to both be listed on their child’s birth certificate when the Department of Vital Statistics records the child’s information.
However, the presumption of parentage does not necessarily convey legal … Read More »
In Virginia, a grandparent, relative, or other interested party may seek and receive a court order granting them legal and physical custody of a child in their care. Such an order would give the custodian a feeling of security that the child cannot be taken from them unless a parent seeks to modify the custody order, in which case the custodian would presumably have an opportunity to object and have their day in court. However, under the Virginia Adoption Statute, that may well be a false sense of security. Under that act, parents who have lost custody nevertheless maintain their residual parental rights, including the right to consent to an adoption. The end result, as I will explain in detail below, is that third-party custodians with legal custody may actually lose the children in their care to an adoption without any notice or … Read More »
In most cases, when one thinks of adoption, they imagine a child being taken into a loving “forever” home. Virginia law, however, allows for the adoption of an adult, though specific circumstances must apply. For instance, a stepparent may adopt an adult stepchild if that stepparent has stood “in loco parentis” to the child for at least three months. Standing “in loco parentis” means standing “in place of a parent.”
In addition, a close relative of an adult may institute proceedings for the adoption. Under the applicable Virginia Code § 63.2-1242.1, a close relative is defined as a “grandparent, great-grandparent, adult nephew or niece, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or adult great uncle or great aunt.”
The Virginia Code also permits a petitioner to adopt an adult if the person to be adopted is the birth child of the petitioner … Read More »
Prospective parents, when considering their options, may choose the international adoption route. When deciding whether or not this option is best for your family, it is important to have an idea what that process will look like. Some of the rules will differ depending upon whether you chose to adopt from a Hague or non-Hague convention country. The process will also vary based on the specific country from which you choose to adopt. What follows here is just a general overview of the international adoption process.
The Hague Convention, by the way, is an international agreement that sets forth common standards to protect children subject to an international adoption. If you are a United States citizen residing in the United States, and seek to adopt a child residing in another country subject to the Hague Convention, you will have to comply … Read More »
The District of Columbia recently amended its D.C. Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination of Parentage Amendment Act (aka D.C. Parentage Act) to allow some non-D.C. residents additional adoption rights. The amendment, which took effect in March 2013, allows D.C. courts the power to grant an adoption to any child who is born in the District, even if the family does not reside in D.C.
The original D.C. Parentage Act, enacted in 2009, was the first law of its kind in the country. It allowed lesbian couples who were married, registered as domestic partners in D.C., or who signed a Consent to Parent, to adopt children born to the couple in the District. The Act conferred the status of parent on both partners in the couple, where one of the women gave birth to a child using donor insemination and the other woman consented to her … Read More »
A Kansas man is garnering national attention because he is being required to pay child support after donating sperm to a lesbian couple. The Kansas man, William Marotta, answered an online advertisement to donate sperm to a lesbian couple. In 2009 the couple and Mr. Marotta entered into an agreement in which he gave up his parental rights to the lesbian couple and was absolved of any financial responsibility.
After the birth of the child, the lesbian couple ended their relationship. The child received more than $6,000 in state benefits. As in Virginia, Kansas requires that the Department of Children and Families (or the Department of Social Services in Virginia) attempt to recuperate those expenses through biological parents.
The state of Kansas says that because Mr. Marotta did not work through a clinic or doctor, as the state law requires, he can … Read More »
One of the most frequently asked questions of Virginia family law attorneys is how a parent’s parental rights can be terminated. Often times a custodial parent wants to terminate the rights of the noncustodial parent because (s)he is not paying support, has not seen the child in years, and or is not a positive influence in the child’s life. Other times the noncustodial parent wants to terminate their own parental rights in an effort to avoid paying child support. Termination of parental rights is extremely serious. If a parent’s rights are terminated (s)he no longer has any parental responsibility, including financial, and can at no point in the future legally ask to be involved in the child’s life.
In Virginia, the parental rights of one parent can be terminated only if there is a third party, such as a step-parent, willing to … Read More »
A recent South Carolina Supreme Court decision has garnered national attention. The story line is straight out of a movie and the stuff of nightmares. A married couple, eager to adopt, enlists the assistance of an adoption agency to expand their family. The Adoptive Mother has a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D., and the Adoptive Father is an automotive body technician with Boeing. They live a simple life in Charleston, South Carolina, and want to adopt a child to expand their family from two to three. The Adoptive Parents are connected with the Birth Mother through the agency. Birth Mother selects the Adoptive Parents deciding that they can give her daughter a stable upbringing, something Birth Mother lovingly acknowledges she can not do.
Birth Mother and the Birth Father had a relationship which resulted in an engagement. Father was active duty … Read More »
The Virginia legislature enacted a number of bills related to adoption which went into effect on July 1, 2012. Many of these bills clarify and make easier various points of the adoption process. One bill in particular, HB 451, could have serious implications in a number of parental placement adoptions, close family adoptions, and stepparent adoptions.
HB 451 amended Virginia Code 63.2-1203 to include a requirement that a parent who does not consent to the adoption of the child, but whose consent to the adoption is required under Virginia Code 63.2-1202, shall be given notice of his/her right to counsel and if determined indigent shall be appointed counsel.
When adoptions are executed, one or both of the biological parents’ rights are terminated. The United States Supreme Court has stated that a parent has a constitutional right to the care, custody, and control of … Read More »
We’ve all seen the Lifetime movies. A child is adopted into a loving family and then months or years later a biological parent wants the child back. Then a long and dramatic court battle ensues. All potential adoptive parents at some point wonder whether their life could turn into a Lifetime movie. But, can a biological parent really come back and contest an adoption? The answer is yes, but under limited circumstances and within a narrow window of time. This time period is called the revocation period.
Different laws apply to adoptions through agencies or through the Department of Social Services, but for parental placement adoptions the revocation period is regulated by Virginia Code Section 63.2-1234. This code section establishes that consent shall be revocable under two circumstances:
First, consent is revocable by either consenting birth parent for any reason for up to … Read More »