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Petition for Stepparent Adoption
Title 31 Article 19 section 2 of the Indiana Code controls adoption proceedings. To begin adoption proceedings of your stepchild, you must file a petition in the court within the county where your stepchild resides. Your spouse must either join you in the adoption action or file a written consent with the petition for adoption.
Consent to Adoption
If your stepchild was born in wedlock it is necessary to receive written consent of the adoption from both living birth parents. If the child was born out of wedlock, written consent of the father is only necessary if paternity has been established by a court proceeding or by the signing of the child's birth certificate.
Effect of Adoption on Parents
After the adoption proceedings are complete the biological parent is relieved of all legal duties, obligations and rights to the child. The adoptive stepparent and her spouse now retain all responsibilities of their child. Prior to the final entry of adoption decree, the biological parent relinquishing his rights must still support the child. If there is past due child support after the entry of the final adoption, it must still be paid.
Postadoption Visitation to Birth Parent
Although a stepparent may adopt his stepchild and help to raise her as if she were his own, a biological parent who has consented to the adoption or voluntarily given up rights to the child may be granted visitation if the court determines it is in the child's best interests.
Virginia Stepparent Adoption Laws Overview
Generally, stepparent adoptions are appropriate when a child's birth parent has remarried and the other parent has become estranged from the child geographically and emotionally or is otherwise unfit or unwilling to act as a parent. Often, the new spouse is appropriately filling the parental shoes of the estranged or absent parent, such that the latter is willing to legally surrender all parental rights to the new spouse.
In Virginia, stepparent adoption is the legal procedure for formally accomplishing this transfer of parental rights. Virginia stepparent adoption has the dual effect of permanently terminating the estranged parent's rights and obligations with respect to the child, and designating the stepparent as the child's parent as in the eyes of the law.
Petition for Adoption and Requirement of Consent
Under Virginia law, a stepparent wishing to adopt his spouse's child must file a petition for adoption in the proper state circuit court. The court will require that the stepparent accompany the petition with a written agreement of consent from the other birth parent, if living. If both birth parent and adoptive parents consent, or if the other parent has died and the remarried birth parent and new spouse consent, the court may proceed to immediately finalize the adoption without referring the matter for home studies or any other further investigation. The court will, however, retain the discretion to order an investigation before a final adoption order is entered.
Requirements in the Absence of Consent to Adopt
If the other birth parent opposes the adoption or if the stepparent is otherwise unable to procure written consent, Virginia law imposes additional procedural requirements. The stepparent must file for and obtain a court order waiving the consent requirement; she must present evidence demonstrating her efforts to obtain consent and the futility thereof, and/or that the other birth parent has essentially abandoned her parental responsibilities and that adoption is in the child's best interests.
Virginia courts are more likely to order investigations in un-consented stepparent adoption cases, but it is neither mandatory nor standard to do so; an investigation will only take place if the court determines that further information is necessary before finally approval of the adoption. If the court deems an investigation necessary, it must enter an order of reference for state agency involvement in the case. At this point, the stepparent and the remarried spouse may be required to submit to home studies and further inquiry.