Step-parent adoptions are relatively common legal proceedings in this day and age. Sometimes these are contested matters, where one biological parent stands to lose their parental rights and litigation is required to settle the matter. In other situations, a biological parent may voluntarily terminate their parental rights, to allow the other biological parent’s current spouse to adopt the child. In still other situations one biological parent might have passed away and a step-parent now wants to adopt the child. These matters go before our courts every day and the Virginia Code allows for step parent adoptions.
But what about more unique situations? This article will cover adoptions by a “person with a legitimate”; specifically, someone who is acting as the child’s parent but is not married to one of the child’s biological parents.
More and more in today’s society, and for a variety of reasons, people are choosing to cohabitate and act as a traditional family unit, without necessarily going through the formalities of a legal marriage. In blended families, this can make for somewhat awkward relationships. The partner of the biological parent is not exactly a step-parent because they are not married to the biological parent, which can cause confusion when the partner tries to pick the child up from school, take them to medical appointments, or add the child to their health insurance. Certainly the partner acts as a parent in all respects, except for having legally married the biological parent.
So what can be done to cure this peculiar situation?
Virginia Code Sec. 63.2-1241 allows for adoptions by persons with a legitimate interest. The Code indicates that the term “person with a legitimate interest… shall be broadly construed to accommodate the best interest of the child.” For all the reasons states above, the partner of the biological parent certainly has a legitimate interest in the child’s wellbeing and qualifies as such under the Virginia Code. Therefore, the partner may petition the courts for adoption of the child, despite not being married to the biological parent.
Our attorneys regularly assist families with the adoption process in the Greater Richmond Area, even when a person with a legitimate interest is not married to the biological parent. Yet one more reason why consulting the right law firm is essential to ensure you are getting the best representation possible for your family law situation.
Special Thanks to Attorney David Mitchell for drafting and editorial assistance with this article.