Virginia families are as varied as the individuals who occupy the commonwealth. As a result, there are a wide array of family law issues that can arise. Oftentimes problems arise when families are breaking apart through divorce. Other times, though, legal issues present themselves when families attempt to expand through adoption. The following is some basic information on stepparent adoption that may be beneficial to some of our readers.

Before a stepparent adoption can be completed, an adoption petition signed by both the stepparent and the child’s biological parent must be filed. The law will only allow an individual to have two legal parents, so stepparents can face an uphill battle if the child’s biological parent is still in the picture.

There are some circumstances that allow a stepparent to successfully adopt his or her stepchild. One way is if the child’s biological parent is deceased. Another way is to obtain the biological parent’s consent. Of course, if the father of the child is unknown, then certain steps can be taken to pursue stepparent adoption. A stepparent can also adopt a stepchild if that child is older than 14 and has lived with his or her stepparent for five years or longer.

Sometimes a biological parent refuses to consent to a stepparent adoption and challenges the petition. When this happens, a court may order an investigation to determine what is in the best interests of the child. The court will then decide if the biological parent’s withholding of consent is contrary to the child’s best interests. If the court finds that the withholding of consent is against the child’s best interest, then it may order the adoption finalized.

On its face, adoption may seem relatively easy. Yet, far too often issues arise that threaten to derail a family’s attempt to pursue their legal rights and build bonds. This is why it is often important to work with a legal professional when pursuing these matters.