Fairfax Adoption Lawyer

Becoming a parent is a joyful occasion, and it is no less so when you become a parent through adoption. However, because an adoption is a process that takes place through the court system, it can be complicated without the help a family law attorney. If you are considering expanding your family through adoption, or formalizing your role as a parent to another family member or a stepchild, a Fairfax adoption lawyer can guide you through Virginia’s adoption process.

Who May Adopt a Child?

To adopt a child in Fairfax, the adoptive parent must be a Virginia resident and be at least one of the following:

  • A person who has custody of a child placed with them by a private adoption agency
  • A parent who is fostering a child placed with them by the Department of Social Services
  • An intended parent with a surrogacy contract
  • A married person whose spouse approves of the adoption
  • A stepparent

There are no age restrictions for adult adoptive parents, and unmarried individuals and same-sex couples may adopt. However, a criminal conviction or an unstable financial situation may impact a person’s ability to adopt.

How to File for Adoption

Under the Code of Virginia Section 63.2-1201, an adoption is initiated by filing a Petition for Adoption in the county or city where the adoptive parent resides, where the agency that placed the child is located, or where the birth parent executed a consent to the adoption. After the Petition is filed, a home study of the prospective parents will be conducted. If the home study is favorable, the court will temporarily approve the adoption.

During the temporary period, a social worker from the local Department of Social Services will visit the home at least three times. If the home is deemed safe and the child is doing well for at least six months, a judge will approve the adoption, and the prospective parents will become the child’s legal parents.

The Adoption Home Study

After the adoption petition is filed, the court will issue a document called an Order of Reference that requires a social worker to assess the adoptive parents’ home to determine if it is a safe and loving environment for the child. This assessment will focus not only on the physical conditions of the home, such as size, condition, and the number of bedrooms, but also on the character of the prospective parents and their ability to nurture and protect the child. The preparer of the home study will then file it with the court. The home study may include interviews of the adoptive parents, conducting background checks, and reviewing references from the prospective parents’ colleagues, family members, and friends.

What Happens at a Final Adoption Hearing?

If after reviewing the Petition for Adoption and the home study the court determines that it is in the child’s best interest to be adopted by the prospective parents, a final adoption hearing will be scheduled. All parties to the case will be notified, including the Department of Social Services or the private adoption agency, the biological parents, and the child if they are fourteen years of age or older.

If the court has appointed an attorney to represent the child, that person will be present at the hearing and will advise the judge of the child’s position regarding the adoption. After the hearing, the judge may issue a final Decree of Adoption.

A Fairfax Adoption Attorney Could Help

Adopting a child is an incredibly rewarding experience that can enrich the lives of everyone involved. Once a child is legally adopted, they will enjoy the same rights as a biological child. Because this is such a significant decision for you and your family, it is important that you understand the applicable adoption laws and how they apply to your case.

Our firm’s attorneys provide hands-on guidance throughout all types of adoptions, including private or public agency adoptions, stepparent or second-parent adoptions, and relative and adult adoptions. From the filing of the initial Petition to the final adoption hearing, an experienced attorney will work diligently to help you grow your family or solidify your relationship with the family member or relative you have been caring for. Call a Fairfax adoption lawyer today for legal support throughout the adoption process.