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Step Parent Adoptions

Step-parent adoptions are by far the most common type of adoption handled in our office.  In this mobile world of ours, if often happens that a non-custodial parent becomes estranged from his or her child both geographically and emotionally.  Sometimes the custodial parent has remarried, and the new spouse is appropriately filling the shoes of the absent parent. The new ‘daddy’ or ‘mommy’ may have played the parenting role much longer than the biological parent, and frequently is the only mother or father the child knows. In these cases, the absent parent is frequently willing to surrender parental rights to the new spouse via the process of a step-parent adoption. The effect of a step parent adoption is to totally sever the legal relationship between the absent or unfit biological parent and the child. It is imperative that the process be done correctly to insure no surprises. Using the services of a qualified attorney who fully understand the requirements and consequences of a step-parent adoption is vitally important.

Procedurally, a step-parent adoption is quite simple if both birth parents and the adoptive parents all consent, or if a birth parent has died and the remarried birth parent and new spouse both consent. No home studies are required.

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Agency Adoptions

The “traditional” adoption, wherein the birth parents place their child with a licensed agency who has the skills and experience to locate a suitable home for the child, and to provide support to the birth and adoptive parents during the emotionally challenging periods that precede and follow the child’s birth and adoption. The agency may have children placed with them due to more tragic circumstances, such as the death of the child’s parents, or the judicial termination of parental rights due to child abuse or neglect. While we cannot fill the role of the agency in finding and placing a child, we can help you to navigate the intricacies of agency adoptions and complete the necessary paperwork to complete the adoption process.

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Parental Placement Adoptions

Parents who find themselves unable to properly raise their child may place a child for adoption with a person or couple of their own choosing. This is called “parental placement” or “private placement” adoption. The process of private placement adoptions is strictly controlled by statute to ensure the safety of the child and the integrity of the adoption process.

The rules for parental placement adoptions are many and somewhat complex. No placement is effective before the child is 10 days old, although it is possible to informally place the child with the prospective adoptive parents at anytime (including at birth). The initial stages of the process take place in the local Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, and petitions and exhibits need to be filed before the court can entertain the placement petition. A home study conducted by a private agency or the Department of Social Services to insure the appropriateness of the placement, and compliance with the statutory requirements and prohibitions.

When the child has been living with a close relative (grandparent, aunt, uncle, adult sibling), there are expedited procedures available. These special adoptions are called, appropriately enough, “Close Relative Adoptions.” Speak with an attorney to discuss the availability of those expedited procedures.

Adult Adoptions

We typically think that an adoption will involve only a minor child. Indeed, the vast majority of adoptions involve adults adopting minors (step-children, private placements, agency placements, etc.). But many situations develop where it is appropriate that a person over the age of 18 be adopted.

A perfect example is when, let’s say, mother and step-father have raised the child for perhaps as long as 18 years of the child’s life. Let’s say they even changed his name to that of the step-father, but they never concluded an adoption. In reviewing retirement or death benefits or other entitlements, the step-father determines that the child would not be a beneficiary because he is not “his child” according to law, and therefore not covered by the terms of the policy.

These folks should run, not walk, to an attorney to set matters right. Other types and examples of adult adoptions are set out in the statute which is linked in the blue text under this subsection title.


Adoptions that do not fit neatly into one of the above categories still may be processed in the state of Virginia. Examples include the adoption of a child where both parents have died and a relative has assumed child rearing responsibilities, or when a child has lived with prospective adoptive parents for many years and the birth parents cannot be located. Contested adoptions (adoptions processed when the birth parent(s) refuse to consent to the adoption) are also handled in the circuit court.

Anonymity and Post Adoption Contact

With most adoptions, the anonymity between the birth parents and the adoptive parents and the child can be assured (more or less, but more more than less) if that is everyone’s wish. Laws, rules and philosophies are changing in this area, however. ‘Open adoptions’ are becoming more commonplace. Post-Adoption Contact and Communications Agreements can be entered into between the various parties which provides for scheduled or otherwise defined contact between the child and the birth parent otherwise giving up parental rights.

Areas We Serve

Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, Yorktown, and the surrounding areas.