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FAQs on Adoption

***The articles on this site are not intended to give legal advice and do not purport to do so. Our intention is to provide general information pertaining to legal topics. If you believe that you might not be lawfully married, or if you are considering separation or believe that your spouse is considering it, you should seek a confidential consultation with a good experienced adoption lawyer.***

Is there such a thing as common law adoption? 

No. In Virginia, adoption is "purely statutory." Historically, adoption was handled within the family or by the village or tribal community. The need for laws regulating adoption arose as a result of estate and inheritance disputes regarding adopted children and disputes over child custody.

Because adoption is "purely statutory," the statutory requirements must be strictly followed.

Are there different kinds of adoption?

Yes, adoptions may be divided into the following categories: agency adoptions, step parent adoptions, and parental placement adoptions. There are differences in procedure depending upon what kind of adoption is needed. The most common type of adoption, agency adoptions are those proceedings involving agency placement of children. Step parent adoption are those proceedings where the custodial parent has married or re-married and the new spouse desires to adopt the child(ren). Parental placement adoptions are those proceedings where the birth parents have placed their child(ren) directly with the prospective adoptive parents of their choice.

There are also special provisions pertaining to the adoption of adults, interstate adoptions and international adoptions.

What do you mean by "agency adoption?"

An agency adoption involves placement of a child by a licensed child placement agency after termination of the parental rights of the birth parents. This is the most common type of adoption.

What is a "foster care placement" adoption?

A foster care placement adoption is a type of agency adoption whereby foster parents  are given the opportunity to adopt children who have been in their care and for whom the residual parental rights of the birth parents have been terminated. Many times, because of the bond which develops between foster care kids and their foster parents, those foster care parents are preferred as potential adoptive parents.

What is a step parent adoption?

A stepparent adoption occurs when a birth parent or adoptive parent of a child marries or re-marries and wishes the new spouse to become the legal parent of the child. This type of adoption can be very easy if the other parent consents to the proceeding. [For a testimonial from clients whom we assisted from the beginning of the separation, through custody proceedings and divorce proceedings up through the proceedings for step parent adoption, click here for the testimonial of Mr. and Mrs. Barry Miller.]

What is a parental placement adoption?

A parental placement adoption occurs when the birth parent or parents of a minor child decide to enter into an adoption plan with the prospect adoptive parent or parents of their choice. [For a testimonial from a client whom we assisted in a parental placement adoption, click here for the testimonial of C. Jones.]

Who is eligible to be an adoptive parent in Virginia?

Any natural person, except persons convicted of a sexually violent offense or an offense requiring registration as a pedophile or sex offender. Because Virginia law requires that the spouse of a prospective adoptive parent join in the petition for adoption, a prospective adoptive parent who is separated from his/her spouse but has not obtained a final divorce must obtain a final divorce before the adoption may be granted. The Virginia statutes make no distinction between married couples vs. an unmarried person, nor between male vs. female unmarried individuals. However, the agency must do a home study and generally must recommend that the adoption be granted before any final order of adoption is entered. There are a few exceptions to this home study requirement, such as step parent   adoptions.

Recently, a number of people have inquired about adopting the children of their girlfriend or boyfriend. While this situation is not specifically addressed in the statutes, these  individuals are not "step parents" as defined in law. Because these individuals are not "step parents," there is a question about the effect of the adoption on the rights of the custodial parent. At a minimum, the agency and the court would have to consider whether or not to the adoption would be in the best interests of the children. It is likely that the agency and the court might be concerned about the stability or lack thereof in a situation where someone not married to the biological custodial parent seeks to adopt. Clearly, it would be helpful if the legislature clarified whether or not this type of adoption should be approved and identified the procedure or steps to be applied in such cases.

How long does it take to adopt?

It depends upon the type of adoption, and the facts of the case such as legitimacy and whether and how long the child has lived with the prospective adoptive parents prior to the petition for adoption and whether they are related to the child. Unless there are special circumstances such that various requirements and consents may be circumvented, it generally takes approximately ten months for the adoption process.

What is the Virginia Putative Father Registry?

The 2006 General Assembly passed into law Section 63.2-1249, which established the Putative Father Registry (VPFR) with the Virginia Department of Social Services. The purpose of the registry is to protect the rights of a putative father who wants to be notified in the event of a proceeding for adoption of, or the termination of parental rights regarding a child he may have fathered.

Virginia has established a confidential database to protect the rights of a putative father who desires to maintain rights to children he may father; it provides a uniform way for putative fathers to be notified in the event of proceedings to terminate the parental rights of putative fathers or for adoption.

What if the birth father has been misled by the birth mother?

If the birth father has been misled by the birth mother who fraudulently told him that the pregnancy had been terminated or that the child died, then the birth father must be given ten days to register after the fraud is discovered. This means providing the birth father with notice  of the adoption plan and information about the registry at his last known address. The ten days begins to run when the information is mailed to that address.

How does the VPFR affect adoption proceedings?

The Virginia Putative Father Registry has no effect on adoption proceedings pertaining to legitimate children. With regard to illegitimate children, however, the Registry provides a uniform means of notification of proceedings for adoption or termination of rights to those fathers who have registered a desire for such notification and further provides a streamlined means of facilitating entry of an adoption order in those cases where the putative father has not registered.

Attorney Perry handled her first case using the Virginia Putative Father Registry in the summer of 2007 and was pleased and impressed at how rapidly she was able to process the adoption and obtain a final adoption decree using the registry to show that the putative father had failed to register. We were able to avoid the expense of an order of publication to notify the putative father of the adoption proceedings; after obtaining a certificate of search from the registry showing that the putative father was not registered, we were able to obtain entry of a final adoption order.

What is a putative father?

A man is considered a putative father if he may have fathered a child by a woman to whom he is/was not married; and a court has not determined that he is the child’s father; and he has not signed a written agreement acknowledging he is the child’s father; and he has not adopted the child.

What happens when a child is adopted? What is affected by the adoption?

The relationship between the child and the biological parents (and family) is terminated. The termination of the relationship severs the rights, responsibilities and obligations of the biological parents toward the child and severs the obligations of the child toward the biological parents. However, the adoption may or may not sever entirely the right of the adopted child to inherit from his or her birth parents, if they die without a will (intestate).

Can the adoption be attacked later?

A key area of potential conflict is with regard to constitutional rights. Gender discrimination and denial of due process are two areas of litigation. Some people find the new putative father registry to be controversial, discriminatory and violative of due process. However, at this writing there are no cases successfully attacking the Virginia Putative Father Registry. The best way to avoid a problem is to obtain consent, to obtain it voluntarily and with adequate counseling and knowledge of the consequences of the consent.

Virginia law does provide that once six months pass since entry of the final adoption order, the order becomes final for all purposes and no attacks may be mounted against the adoption order.

What is the next step I should take after reading this information?

If after reading over the foregoing questions and answers on adoption, you would like more specific advice about your unique situation, CALL (804) 520-7060 NOW for a confidential appointment with Attorney Virginia Perry. Or to contact us to let us know how we may assist you further, please click here.

We have experienced an upsurge in our adoption practice from adult step children desiring to be adopted by  their step parents. This is the best present that the adult child could give his step parent and usually represents the formalizing of the existing relationship within the family. This type of adoption is very simple, provided there is agreement among the parties. No home study or investigation is required. What is required is a petition for adoption signed under oath by the step parent, a copy of the birth record of the adult to be adopted, a copy of the marriage license of the step parent and birth parent, the written consent under oath of the adult child, a cover sheet for filing, a VS-12 form reporting the adoption to the Bureau of Vital Records and a final adoption order.  We usually have the birth parent who is married to the step parent join in the petition to show their consent to the proceedings. (In addition to the attorney's fee ($750-1,000), there is a filing fee to the court of $89.)

Once the paperwork is signed and notarized, we file it in the jurisdiction where the step parent resides. Please note that if the step parent does not reside in Virginia, you cannot file the adoption in Virginia. Assuming all parties reside here in Virginia and sign the necessary documents, it is a matter of the court reviewing the documents to determine if the statutes are satisfied and entering the final adoption order.

We have experienced an upsurge in our adoption practice from adult step children desiring to be adopted by  their step parents. This is the best present that the adult child could give his step parent and usually represents the formalizing of the existing relationship within the family. This type of adoption is very simple, provided there is agreement among the parties. No home study or investigation is required. What is required is a petition for adoption signed under oath by the step parent, a copy of the birth record of the adult to be adopted, a copy of the marriage license of the step parent and birth parent, the written consent under oath of the adult child, a cover sheet for filing, a VS-12 form reporting the adoption to the Bureau of Vital Records and a final adoption order.  We usually have the birth parent who is married to the step parent join in the petition to show their consent to the proceedings. (In addition to the attorney's fee ($750-1,000), there is a filing fee to the court of $89.)

Once the paperwork is signed and notarized, we file it in the jurisdiction where the step parent resides. Please note that if the step parent does not reside in Virginia, you cannot file the adoption in Virginia. Assuming all parties reside here in Virginia and sign the necessary documents, it is a matter of the court reviewing the documents to determine if the statutes are satisfied and entering the final adoption order.

This site is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. If you are a prospective adoptive parent, or a putative father, or birth parent who is being asked to consent to adoption, you should consult an attorney for advice and information pertaining to your situation.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Perry Law Group PC. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials from this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution, provided all copies include this statement: this copyright material from the VA Law Talk website is reproduced with the permission of Perry Law Group, PC.



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