Adopting a child, while wonderfully rewarding, is a complicated legal process. It often requires guidance from experienced attorneys and professionals. All adoptions in Virginia begin with a home study and conclude with a finalization of the adoption.
Home Studies for Adoption in Virginia
An approved home study is required for every prospective adoptive family in Virginia. This process must take place before before a child can be placed in your home. The home study will be performed by one of Virginia's licensed child placement agencies. Everyone in your household will participate in some aspect of the home study process (except young children).
Virginia does not allow those who are convicted of certain crimes to adopt children. These crimes include (but may not be limited to):
- Conviction of child abuse or neglect.
- Sexually violent offenses, or offenses requiring registration as a sex offender.
- Certain other crimes, especially those which have moral implications.
During the home study, if a charge is pending, the outcome may be held until the final disposition in the case.
Unlike other jurisdictions, a Virginia home study is valid for 36 months from the date of completion. However, updated background checks may be required every 18 months. If you're adopting from another state (interstate adoption), you may also be required to update your home study each year.
Virginia Adoption Requirements
Unmarried residents of Virginia may adopt a child in the state. Virginia couples who are not married are, unfortunately, excluded from adopting. Virginia's married couples, including same-sex couples, may adopt in the state. Some adoption agencies in Virginia may refuse to place a child with a same-sex couple for religious reasons. Jennifer Fairfax works with agencies that are open to working with diverse families, as well as those who fit into more traditional family models.
Adoption Expenses for Virginia's Adoptive Parents
Adoptive families in Virginia are expected to pay for their home study. You'll also be responsible for post-placement supervision costs, as well as any expenses and fess paid for services provided by a licensed adoption agency. In addition, the adoptive parents may pay the following expenses for the birth parent:
- Adoption related legal fees for their independent attorney;
- Pregnancy and hospital-related medical expenses not covered by the birth mother's insurance;
- Birth parent adoption-related counseling services;
- Reasonable expenses for food, clothing and shelter when the expectant mother is unable to work due to pregnancy (as verified by a medical doctor); and
- Reimbursement for food, lodging, and transportation expenses incurred in connection with an adoption-related court appearance.
It should be noted that facilitation is illegal in Virginia. Facilitation is the act of paying a third party a fee for a match with a birth parent. Therefore, prospective adoptive parents in Virginia should never pay a third party (attorney, social worker, educator, consultant, facilitator) a fee to match them with a birth mother. Jennifer Fairfax can help you learn more about paid facilitation issues in Virginia.
Adoption Consent Requirements in Virginia
In Virginia, the following people must consent to the adoption:
- The child’s mother;
- An acknowledged father, adjudicated father, presumed father, or a man who has registered with the Virginia Birth Father Registry;
- A person having legal custody of the child (including an agency), if the child is in the guardianship of a licensed child placing agency;
- The child being adopted, if he or she is age 14 or older
A Consent to the Adoption is not required when:
- The birth father denies his paternity in writing and under oath;
- The biological father is convicted of rape, statutory rape, or an equivalent offense;
- The parent's rights have been terminated by the court;
- The parent has not visited or contacted the child for a period of at least six months;
- A non-consenting party fails to appear at the adoption hearing after receiving proper notice.
Birth Parent Consent
The birth parents can execute consent three days after the child is born. The consent is taken in court before a Judge, who acts as a witness to the consent. Often, the court hearing is more than three days after the birth, giving many birth parents longer than the statutory period to consent and (and revoke that consent) in Virginia. A birth father may consent to have his parental rights terminated prior to the child’s birth in Virginia.
Revocation of Birth Parent Consent
Birth parents may change their mind and revoke their consent within 7 days of execution of their consent, unless they sign a waiver of the revocation period at the time of consent. A waiver can only be signed if the child is at least 10 days old and the birth parent was represented by counsel. In cases of proven fraud or duress, the consent may be revoked up until the final adoption order. Consent may also be revoked upon written, mutual consent from both the birth parents and the adoptive family.
Involvement of the Birth Father
In Virginia, a man is presumed to be the father of a child, and therefore has certain rights in the adoption process, if:
- He is or was married to the child’s mother and the child is or was born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage;
- He and the child’s mother attempted to marry each other before the child’s birth, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days of the end of the marriage;
- He has established a parent-child relationship through a scientifically reliable genetic test, or a voluntary written statement with the child’s mother acknowledging his paternity.
Any man who wishes to be notified of an adoption proceeding regarding a child he may have fathered should register with the Virginia Birth Father Registry:
- Before the child is born;
- Within 10 days of receiving notice of the registry, or;
- If he did not receive notice within 10 days of the child’s birth.
Should the birth father fail to register, he is forfeiting his right to notice of adoption hearings, as well as his right to withhold consent to an adoption proceeding.
Legal Requirements for Finalizing International Adoptions in Virginia
Even if you're not legally required to complete an international re-adoption, it is a strongly recommended step for every family who has adopted internationally. A re-adoption in Virginia is primarily a paperwork process. However, you may need to complete post-placement supervision and obtain a Report of Home Study from a local child placement agency to complete the process. If your child arrived home on an IR-4 or IH-4 (or any other visa other than an IR-3 or IH-3) visa, you must complete the adoption in Virginia in order for your child to become eligible for U.S Citizenship. If your child arrived home on an IR-3 or IH-3 visa, a re-adoption isn't required but is strongly recommended.
More on Virginia Adoption Laws:
- From our blog: Adult Adoption in Virginia
For additional information on Virginia Adoption Laws, please contact Jennifer at JFairfax@jenniferfairfax.com
If you would like to set up a consultation with Jennifer, please complete our Appointment Request Form.