The purpose of adoption is to match children who have been physically and legally separated from their biological parents with a healthy, loving family. There are different types of adoptions, and each has various requirements for both the birth and adoptive parents. Anyone considering expanding their family through adoption should be familiar with the state’s adoption laws and procedures. Reach out to one of our compassionate attorneys to learn about Virginia adoption.
Who May Adopt a Child in Virginia?
Virginia law permits state residents to adopt if they meet one of the following criteria:
- A person with custody of a child placed with them by a child placement agency
- An adopting parent of a child whose birth parents voluntarily surrendered their parental rights
- Intended parents who entered into a surrogacy contract
- A married couple adopting jointly
- A stepparent
There is no minimum age requirement for adoptive parents, and unmarried individuals may legally adopt. All families seeking to adopt must submit to a home study.
Types of Adoptions in Virginia
Prospective parents seeking to adopt may consider either an agency adoption or a non-agency adoption. Agency adoptions occur when the Department of Social Services has custody of a child, and the birth parents’ parental rights have been permanently terminated. The Department places a child with a foster family, and if that placement is successful, the foster parents can adopt the child with the Department’s consent.
In non-agency adoptions, a Licensed Child Placing Agency matches a child with a prospective adoptive family. The birth parents or legal guardians voluntarily surrender their parental rights. Non-agency adoptions include:
- Parental placement adoptions where the birth parents choose their child’s adoptive parents
- Stepparent adoptions
- Relative adoptions
- Adult adoptions where the adoptee is over the age of 18
The state does not become involved in these adoptions unless a judge orders the Department of Social Services to investigate the prospective adoptive family. Individuals or couples seeking a non-agency adoption often work with an adoption attorney to guide them through the legal process.
The Necessity of Parental Consent
In a Virginia adoption, the birth parents must consent to the adoption, with certain exceptions. The Department of Social Services must consent to agency adoptions, and the private child-placing agency must consent to non-agency adoptions. If the adoptee is fourteen years or older, they must also agree to be adopted.
The birth parents’ consent is not required if a court has terminated their parental rights. If a child was conceived due to rape or incest, the birth father’s consent is not needed. Additionally, if a birth parent has unjustifiably stopped visiting or communicating with their child for six months before the adoption petition is filed, or has objected to the adoption but does not appear for the adoption hearing, they are deemed to have waived their right to consent.
Home Study For Prospective Adoptive Parents
In every Virginia adoption, an investigation of the prospective adoptive parents’ home must be completed and approved by a judge before the final adoption. The Department or another licensed agency will interview the family at least three times, including one joint interview with married adoptive parents and one interview in the adoptive family’s home. The adoptive parents must provide a statement from their physician reflecting their current health, submit to a criminal background check, and provide at least two nonrelative references to confirm they are fit to raise a child.
The home study’s primary purpose is to ensure that it is in the child’s best interest to be adopted by the prospective family. Accordingly, the evaluator may consider factors such as the relationship between the family members, their motivation for adopting, and their ability to help the child adjust to their new family. The evaluator may also review the parents’ financial circumstances to ensure that they can meet the child’s day-to-day needs.
Adoption is Encouraged in Virginia
Virginia’s adoption laws protect both the birth parents and the adoptive family, and the state is generally viewed as a proponent of adoption. To further its goal of successful adoptions and stability for all parties involved as quickly as possible, the state encourages the finalization of adoptions within six months of the child’s placement with the prospective parents. Anyone considering adoption may benefit from the advice of an experienced Virginia attorney. Call today to get started.