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Family Law & Divorce Attorneys in Virginia

Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt a Child in Virginia?

Experienced Virginia Attorneys

The decision to adopt a child is exciting and joyous. However, because adoption involves a complicated legal process, it is in your best interest to work with a skilled adoption lawyer. Though some forms of adoption are fairly straightforward, it can still be a nerve-wracking, stressful process. Having the support of a trusted attorney can make a huge difference and bring you peace of mind. Your lawyer can help you ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly and answer any questions you may have. Additionally, your attorney can use their experience to help you resolve any unexpected issues that arise.

Common types of adoption include:

  • Stepparent adoption
  • Grandparent adoption
  • Close relative adoption
  • Private placement adoption
  • Adult adoptions

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, only two types of adoption are allowed in the state: agency placements and non-agency placements. Agency placements are those where the child is currently in the custody of a licensed child-placing agency or the local department of social services. Non-agency adoptions are those where the child is not in the custody of the local department of social services or a licensed child-placing agency. An example of a non-agency adoption is stepparent adoption.

Filing for Adoption in Virginia

Adoptions are governed by Chapter 12 of the Code of Virginia. Generally, the first step in filing for adoption is to file a petition for adoption in your county's Circuit Court. At the same time, you may also request a name change for the child. The Department of Social Services will then conduct a home study. If this visit is successful and your living arrangements deemed acceptable, the courts will grant a temporary order approving the adoption.

The adoption process is notoriously long. After you have been successfully matched with a child and are ready to proceed with the adoption, the state requires a six-month home residency period before the adoption can be finalized. During these six months, the Department of Social Services will visit your home several times.

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Am Working with an Adoption Agency?

Though you are not required to, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney if you are considering adoption. In addition to helping you with the legal process of adoption, an attorney experienced in handling Virginia adoptions can help you understand all your legal responsibilities and obligations as parents.

Stepparent Adoptions

Stepparent adoption is one of the most common types of adoption in Virginia. It is an important process that can help a family feel more complete. In addition to uniting the family, it also helps a stepparent gain important parental rights. However, this is not always an easy process.

One of the most difficult aspects of stepparent adoption is getting the other birth parent's consent. Their consent is necessary as the adoption involves terminating their parental rights so that the stepparent may assume responsibility for the child in question.

Just as the courts take adoption very seriously, they also take the termination of a birth parent's rights very seriously. Though stepparent adoption can be easier in some ways, the issue of parental rights can be a difficult one to surmount. The help of an experienced lawyer can be invaluable during this process.