As a part of my practice, I undertake domestic adoptions: traditional adoption, foster-adoptions, step-parent adoptions and adult adoptions. I do not place children for adoption.
Under West Virginia law "stepparent adoption" means an adoption in which the petitioner for adoption is married to one of the birth parents of the child or to an adoptive parent of the child. W. Va. Code § 48-22-116. The remaining parent (birth or adoptive) must give his or her consent to the adoption.
If the parent refuses to give his or her consent, the adoption cannot take place unless the remaining parent has abandoned the child. West Virginia law definition of "abandonment" in the typical step-parent adoption is: Abandonment of a child over the age of six months shall be presumed when the birth parent: (1) Fails to financially support the child within the means of the birth parent; and (2) Fails to visit or otherwise communicate with the child when he or she knows where the child resides, is physically and financially able to do so and is not prevented from doing so by the person or authorized agency having the care or custody of the child: Provided, That such failure to act continues uninterrupted for a period of six months immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition. See, W.Va. Code § 48-22-306(A).
A petition for adoption can be filed to adopt a child after the child has lived with you for six months. We can actually begin working on the petition shortly after the child has been placed with you so that we can celebrate the six month mark by filing the petition on that date! Or we can commence working on the petition at such time is convenient for you. Once the petition is filed, a hearing may not be held until 45 days after the filing. Typically, it is at that hearing before the circuit court judge that the adoption order is entered.
An adoption out of a foster-care placement is also a domestic adoption. The procedures are the same as those described above. Sometimes, however, other variables pop into the equation - such as adoption subsidy agreements. In some cases, a child may be eligible to receive adoption subsidies.. The West Virginia DHHR, has a terrific site about foster care and foster adoption. Visit the site at: http://www.wvdhhr.org/oss/adoption/adoption_process.asp.
Once a child is placed with you and is eligible for adoption, I can work with you and your social worker to prepare the adoption petition. If a child is to be special needs by the State of West Virginia, you may be eligible to obtain adoption subsidies from the State, as well as a $1,000.00 contribution towards your legal expenses. Your social worker can advise you of the child's eligibility. You may also be eligible for a $10,000.00 tax credit from the IRS and a $2,000.00 tax credit from the State of West Virginia.
It is not entirely uncommon for adult adoptions to take place in West Virginia. A typical circumstance is that where an adult relative or guardian raised a child and, after the child reached the age of eighteen, both the adult and the child wish to consummate their relationship by adoption. For instance, perhaps an aunt and uncle raised their nieces and nephews because the biological parents were dead or unable to raise their children. The aunt and uncle had a legal guardianship, but never adopted the children... perhaps out of respect for the biological parents or perhaps because the biological parents would not consent to the adoption. As an adult, the child can now consent to the adoption without his/her biological parents consent or relinquishment.
West Virginia law provides, with respect to the adoption of adults: "Any adult person who is a resident of West Virginia may petition the circuit court or any other court of record having jurisdiction of adoption proceedings for permission to adopt one who has reached the age of eighteen years or over, and, if desired, to change the name of such person. The consent of the person to be adopted shall be the only consent necessary. The order of adoption shall create the same relationship between the adopting parent or parents and the person adopted and the same rights of inheritance as in the case of an adopted minor child. If a change in name is desired, the adoption order shall so state." W. Va. Code §48-22-801.
The Gift of Life
I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.
For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn't give you
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.
--- Author Unknown