Adopting a child is a method people can use to expand their family. Limited to married couples, including same sex married couples, children can be adopted privately, through an agency, from foster care, or from a country outside of the United States. Once an adoption is complete, the adopting parents become the full legal custodians of the child, responsible for their health, support, education, and welfare.
If the adopting parents subsequently divorce, the noncustodial parent will be required to pay child support to the custodial parent for as long as the adoptive child remains a minor or is unemancipated. Adopted children, like natural born children, have the right to inherit from their adoptive parents and apply for Social Security or Veteran’s benefits in the event one or both adoptive parents die.
Who May Adopt a Child
Any person who resides in Virginia or any person who has custody of a child placed by a Virginia adoption agency may adopt a child through Virginia courts. An unmarried person, married couples, and same-sex married couples may adopt a child under Virginia law. However, two unmarried persons are not able to jointly adopt a child.
Who Places Children for Adoption
The biological parent or parents and licensed adoption child-placing agencies are the only people or entities with legal authority to place a child for adoption.
The Role of the Biological Father
The biological father is an interested party in adoption proceedings. If the mother cannot identify the father, she must state so in court and make every possible attempt to identify and find him. The biological father needs to provide consent – in person or in writing – for the adoption to go forward. The biological father can appear with the biological mother and provide consent in court to the adoption or submit written consent. As long as he is notified, an adoption can continue if he fails to appear when summoned to appear in court.
What Costs or Fees Can Adopting Parents Pay to the Biological Parent
Virginia permits an adopting person or couple to pay for the following costs associated with an adoption:
- Medical expenses and insurance premiums directly related to the adoption;
- Mental health counseling expenses for biological parents;
- Reasonable and necessary expenses for food, clothing and shelter if the mother is unable to work because of the pregnancy;
- Legal fees of the adopting parents or birth parents related to the adoption proceedings;
- Agency expenses for the preparation of court ordered home studies; and
- Travel expenses related to the adoption process.
The Birth Mother Can Revoke Consent
Mothers provide consent to adoption of her child in court, in the presence of the adopting couple and the presiding judge. A mother can unilaterally revoke her consent for up to 10 days after the birth of the baby. Beyond that the birth mother will have to prove fraud or duress in the adoption process to revoke consent.
If you're considering adoption in the Commonwealth of Virginia contact the family law experts at Ferguson, Rawls, and Raines. We're your Suffolk Lawyers for Life!
Adopting a child can be a rewarding but often lengthy process. In our free downloadable article you will learn about some of the steps involved in Virginia adoption.
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