Legal Question in Family Law in Virginia

Step-parent adoption

I want to adopt my girlfriends 6 year old son after we marry later this year. I have been his ''father'' since he was born. Is it possible to the parental rights of the biological father terminated when there has been no contact/support ever and his location is unknown? Also on a related subject, my girlfriend was told that if she signs paper work to allow me to adopt her son she could be charged with abandonment. My future mother-in-law has been threatining to try and take our son away (for reasons like we dont make enough money to raise a child even though we make over $60,000 a year). we wonder if this is something she could use against us?

Asked on 2/27/01, 9:08 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Michael Wilson Michael T. Wilson, Attorney and Counselor at Law

Re: Step-parent adoption

A step-parent adoption in Virginia is a relatively simple procedure. It will be necessary to either get consent from the biological father or to do "publication" to astisfy the Court before the adoption can be completed. Why does your girlfriend's mother object to the adoption? Income is one of many factors to be considered by the Court. You should consult an attorney and provide more information relative to your circumstances.

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Answered on 4/24/01, 8:09 am

Lisa Lane McDevitt McDevitt Law Office

Re: Step-parent adoption

Rule number one...never listen to your mother-in-law. In this case she is wrong. Whenever the court looks to determine custody of a child the court wants to determine what is in the best interest of the child. First, most courts are very reluctant to remove a child from its environment unless you can show that it isn't in the best interest of the child to remain there. Court generally like to leave children in the environment where they have long resided to provide stabilty to the children. Now if you mother-in-law can allege that there is harm likely to occur to the child should your future wife marry you then she may have a case, but if she's only going on finances then she doesn't have much of a case. But again, if you have a violent past or are currently abusive, addicted to drugs or alcohol, etc. she may prove that it is in the best interest of the child to live with her. As an aside, the fact that your future wife desires to provide a two-parent intake stable home to the child is very credible strong evidence that she is indeed looking out for the best interest of the child.

As for the adoption, you need to get the consent of the bio dad, either actual consent or notice through publication. However, his parental rights may be terminated when the court has found a child to be neglected on the ground of abandonment.

If I can be of further help please call my VA office at 703-598-9220.

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Answered on 4/24/01, 8:50 pm

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