If you are reading this page, then likely you are considering the option of adopting your spouse’s child from a previous relationship. Stepparent adoptions are very common in the USA and can be straight forward if all parties agree. Essentially, in Virginia, there are two main types of adoption; there are agency adoptions and close-relative adoptions. Most of the time, if both biological parents and the stepparent all agree in writing to the adoption, then the court will order it without a home study or guardian being required.
Choosing to adopt your spouse’s child is a huge decision and must be carefully considered. There are some very good reasons to adopt your stepchild. If you and your spouse have been together for several years, then it is likely you have already significantly bonded with the stepchild. If the other biological parent is no longer in the child’s life and you have assumed the role of parent, then it is natural to want to adopt the child.
When you adopt your stepchild, you can elect to change the child’s name to your own. Doing this could act to further unify your family and give the child a sense of belonging. Also, when you adopt the child it is easier for that child to inherit your assets, particularly if you die without a Last Will and Testament. Adopting the child may make it easier for him, her, they, or them to receive your benefits like health insurance. Adopting the child gives you and the child a sense of security knowing that the other biological parent will not come along and disrupt living arrangements. Adoption gives you a level of authority with the child when it comes to caring for the child, particularly with hospitals and schools.
There are some risks associated with adoption in situations concerning child support, for instance.
If the other biological parent is making child support payments, then they will likely stop upon entry of an adoption order as they will no longer be required by law to make support payments. If you and your current spouse were to separate, then you could be responsible for paying child support for the care of the adopted child.
After family discussions, if you choose to adopt your spouse’s child, you may want to hire an attorney. If you can contact the other biological parent, then you should check and see if he or she is willing to sign off on your adopting the child. If the other biological parent is willing to sign off on the adoption, then its straightforward, and may not even require a court date.
If you cannot locate the other biological parent or the other parent will not sign off on the adoption, then a court date will likely be required. The court may appoint a guardian or require a home study. The court will rule on the adoption based on the child’s best interests. It is highly unlikely that the court will grant the stepparent adoption over the objection of a biological parent that is actively involved in the child’s life.
The court may grant the stepparent adoption without a home study if, among other things, it finds that the other biological parent (1) is deceased, (2) consents to the adoption in writing, (3) denies paternity, (4) the father’s identity is not reasonably ascertainable, or (5) the child is 14 years old or older and has lived in the home of the person desiring to adopt for over five years.
Choosing to adopt your spouse’s child is a very personal decision and it may not be right for everyone. Obviously, if the other biological parent is actively involved in the child’s life, adoption may not even be possible. If your marriage is not in a good place, it may not be wise to adopt a stepchild. If you have come to rely on the other biological parents’ child support payments, then you may need to consider how you will replace that income upon adoption.
However, if the other biological parent is not contributing to the child’s well-being, you and your spouse have a good marriage, and you have a strong bond with the stepchild, then adoption may be the logical next step in unifying and bonding your family even further. Once the adoption is complete, you will change the birth certificate to add the stepparent’s name and possibly change the child’s last name.