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  • John C. Whitbeck, Jr.


    John C. Whitbeck, Jr. practices in the following areas of law: Family Law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Mediation, Arbitration, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Criminal Law, DUI/DWI, Reckless Driving, All Felonies, All Misdemeanors, Juvenile Crimes, Mental Health Law, Civil and Business Litigation, Construction Litigation, Education Law, Election Law, Debt Collection, Consumer and Lemon Law.

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  • Ruth M. McElroy


    Ruth M. McElroy practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Pre and Post Marital Agreements, Domestic Violence, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Juvenile Crimes, Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes, Traffic Offenses, Debt Collection, Civil and Business Litigation. She serves the Virginia Court system as a Guardian ad litem.

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  • Jennifer D. Cisneros


    Jennifer D. Cisneros practices in the following areas of law: Family law, Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Visitation Rights, Adoptions, Spousal Support, Relocation Cases, Domestic Violence, Juvenile Crimes, Reckless Driving, DUI/DWI, Estate Planning, Wills and Probate, Trusts, Civil and Business Litigation and Debt Collection.

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How Stepparent Adoptions Work in Virginia


Stepparent adoption is a formal adoption process wherein the stepparent legally adopts the child of his or her spouse and the spouse still has legal rights. Stepparent situations are unique, as some people may legally adopt their stepchild as soon as they are joining the family while others have raised the child for years before entering into the process.

In Virginia the process of adopting your stepchild can be complex if you don’t understand the specific legal requirements set forth by the courts. Prior to filing your adoption paperwork, you must meet two important criteria in Virginia.

Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in Virginia

The first of the two main requirements for stepparent adoptions in Virginia involves your spouse being one of the biological parents of the child. Your spouse must consent with your desire to adopt your stepchild and be included as a joint petitioner. This will prove to the court that your spouse is agreeing to the adoption.

The second requirement involves obtaining consent of the other biological parent, which may be challenging in some instances. Options include:

  • Other biological parent consents to the adoption;
  • The other parent is deceased;
  • The identity of the other parent is unknown and there is a sworn statement of the biological mother confirming this fact;
  • The other parent refuses to accept paternity of the child; or
  • The child is 14 years of age or older and has been living in the stepparent’s household for at least five years.

If the biological parents are in agreement, it is an easier process when compared to a traditional adoption. You must include the required evidence in your initial petition. If the judge feels everything is in order, he or she will issue a final order of adoption. There are some rare instances where a judge may need additional information or even summon all parties to appear in court.

Reasons to Adopt Your Stepchild

You may have already stepped into the role of parent in every way that matters but formalizing the relationship can offer a number of benefits. These include, but are not limited to:

  • You can make important medical decisions, as well as gain access to medical records if there is an emergency;
  • The ability for them to inherit from you;
  • Adoption will allow them to benefit from your insurance and social security benefits;
  • You will be able to have the same last name if so desired;
  • The adoption will allow you and your spouse to have the same legal rights; and
  • It can be an important emotional representation of the love you share.

Retaining a Virginia Adoption Attorney

Navigating a stepparent adoption can be challenging in some situations if there is a problem getting consent from the other biological parent. You need to be sensitive, especially in cases where the other biological parent is still involved in the child’s life. Retaining a Virginia adoption attorney is an important step as your attorney can help simplify the process. If you have questions about stepparent adoptions in Virginia, please contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation.


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Governor Northam’s Executive Order 53 provides that businesses that offer professional rather than retail services may remain open. Our firm is continuing to operate to ensure you and your family have advocates available for whatever legal issue you face. For clients who prefer, we can arrange meeting by Zoom or other video-conferencing. We are also implementing internal procedures to provide a safe environment in the office. Please contact us at 703-777-1795 or schedule an appointment today!