Virginia law recognizes three different types of adoption: step-parent adoptions, parental placement adoptions, and agency adoptions. Attorney Virginia Perry has over 40 years of experience in Virginia adoption law and has handled all three types of adoptions. If you are looking to adopt through any of the available means to do so, Perry Law Group can assist you in making it go as smoothly as possible.


The law changes and evolves over time. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the area of child custody. The paradigm has shifted from sole custody to joint custody. The trend is toward the development and adoption of “parenting plans” outlining the role each parent is to play in the life of the children. Child Custody issues are often some of the most challenging issues couples face when trying to come to an agreement. We have been representing parents, step-parents, and grandparents in child custody and visitation cases for 40+ years and also have experience in foster care cases.

As a child of divorce herself, Attorney Perry brings a unique perspective to child custody litigation and is able to argue with conviction and passion for what she believes is in the best interest of the minor children.

Perry Law Group can also advise you in:

  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Divorce or Separation
  • Annulment
  • Division of Property
  • Simple Wills
  • And More!



Q: What is custody?
Custody refers to guardianship; the right to control the day to daycare and upbringing of the child.
Q: What does the law generally say about custody?
It says that the parents of legitimate children born in wedlock are the natural guardians of those children. Each parent has equal power and authority with regard to the child.
Q: What if a parent dies?
The surviving parent becomes the natural guardian of the children without a court order.
Q: How do custody cases end up in court?
Most often, custody disputes arise when parents decide to separate or when the parents were never married. In these cases, courts are called upon to award custody, based upon the law and the facts as they are presented in court.
Q: Where would I file for custody?
Unless you are filing suit for divorce and asking for custody incident to the divorce proceedings, custody cases are usually determined by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court. Generally, custody/visitation issues are handled initially in the locality where the child and at least one parent currently live and have lived for the previous six months.
Q: Can someone other than a parent file for custody?
Yes. Although the majority of disputes are between the parents of the child, anyone with a legitimate interest may seek custody or visitation.
Q: What if I want to change the visitation?
Assuming that something has changed since the old order was signed, once a court enters an order, that court retains jurisdiction over the case, until the case is transferred to another jurisdiction. Bear in mind that once a court enters an order deciding the case, you have to be able to show that something has changed since the order was entered and that the change warrants changing the court order. You do not have the right to re-litigate issues that have already been decided.
Q: What if we've moved out of that jurisdiction?
The originating court continues to have jurisdiction until the case is transferred to another jurisdiction.
Q: Is it a crime for one parent to withhold the child from the other?
Once a court has made an order of custody/visitation, violation of the order, withholding the child from visitation or withholding a child from the custodial parent, may be a criminal act if the court finds it was done wrongfully and intentionally in violation of the court order.
Q: What is the difference between joint custody and sole custody?
Virginia Courts may award joint or sole custody but must give primary consideration to the “best interests” of the child. It has been said that the court must award custody to “provide children with the greatest opportunity to fulfill their potential as individuals…” Virginia courts no longer favor sole custody arrangements unless such an arrangement is clearly in the best interest of the child or the parents agree to sole custody. Joint custody means that both parents have responsibility for the care and control of the child and the authority to make decisions concerning the child; both parents share physical custody for the child or any combination of the above. Sole custody means that one person has the responsibility of the care and control of the child and has primary decision-making authority.
Q: What does the court consider in deciding what is best for the child?
The focus of the court is the “best interest” of the child; the court wants to ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents. The factors the court considers are set out in the statutes:

  1. The age and physical and mental condition of the child
  2. The age and physical and mental condition of each parent
  3. The relationship between each parent and each child
  4. The positive involvement of the parent in the child’s life and the parent’s ability to assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child
  5. The child’s needs, including important relationships (siblings, peers and extended family)
  6. The role each parent has played and will play in the upbringing and care of the child
  7. The willingness of each parent to actively support the child’s contact and relationship with the other parent
  8. The willingness and ability of each parent to cooperate in matters affecting the child
  9. The willingness and ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child
  10. The preference of the child, if the court determines that the child is able to express such a preference
  11. Any history of family abuse
  12. Such other factors as the court may determine are important
  13. Failure to cooperate in visitation and other matters affecting a child can be a factor in a court’s consideration of a change of custody.
Q: Do I have to have a lawyer to file for custody?
No. You do not have to have a lawyer to file for custody. However, if custody is important to you, you should at least talk to a lawyer about your situation and get advice. It can be helpful to have someone on your side who knows the rules of court and how to use the system for your benefit. We have been helping families in crisis and assisting parents in handling custody and visitation disputes for over 30 years.
Q: Is there such a thing as common-law adoption?
No. In Virginia, adoption is “purely statutory.” Historically, adoption was handled within the family or by the village or tribal community. The need for laws regulating adoption arose as a result of estate and inheritance disputes regarding adopted children and disputes over child custody. Because adoption is “purely statutory,” the statutory requirements must be strictly followed.
Q: Are there different kinds of adoption?
Yes, adoptions may be divided into the following categories: agency adoptions, stepparent adoptions, and parental placement adoptions. There are differences in procedure depending upon what kind of adoption is needed. The most common type of adoption, agency adoptions, are those proceedings involving agency placement of children. Stepparent adoptions are those proceedings where the custodial parent has married or remarried, and the new spouse desires to adopt the child(ren). Parental placement adoptions are those proceedings where the birth parents have placed their child(ren) directly with the prospective adoptive parents of their choice.

There are also special provisions pertaining to the adoption of adults, interstate adoptions, and international adoptions.

Q: What do you mean by "agency adoption?"
An agency adoption involves the placement of a child by a licensed child placement agency after the termination of the parental rights of the birth parents. This is the most common type of adoption.
Q: What is a "foster care placement" adoption?
A foster care placement adoption is a type of agency adoption whereby foster parents are given the opportunity to adopt children who have been in their care and for whom the residual parental rights of the birth parents have been terminated. Many times, because of the bond which develops between foster care kids and their foster parents, those foster care parents are preferred as potential adoptive parents.
If you have been separated for more than one year, it is not necessary to have a written property settlement. However, having settled issues like property, support and custody can make the divorce faster and easier to obtain, provided no one is in violation of the terms of the settlement.
Q: What is a stepparent adoption?
A stepparent adoption occurs when a birth parent or adoptive parent of a child marries or remarries and wishes the new spouse to become the legal parent of the child. This type of adoption can be very easy if the other parent consents to the proceeding.
Q: What is a parental placement adoption?
A parental placement adoption occurs when the birth parent or parents of a minor child decide to enter into an adoption plan with the prospective adoptive parent or parents of their choice.
Q: Who is eligible to be an adoptive parent in Virginia?
Any natural person, except persons convicted of a sexually violent offense or an offense requiring registration as a pedophile or sex offender. Because Virginia law requires that the spouse of a prospective adoptive parent join in the petition for adoption, a prospective adoptive parent who is separated from his/her spouse but has not obtained a final divorce must obtain a final divorce before the adoption may be granted. The Virginia statutes make no distinction between married couples vs. an unmarried person, nor between male vs. female unmarried individuals. However, the agency must do a home study and generally must recommend that the adoption be granted before any final order of adoption is entered. There are a few exceptions to this home study requirement, such as stepparent adoptions.

Recently, a number of people have inquired about adopting the children of their girlfriend or boyfriend. While this situation is not specifically addressed in the statutes, these individuals are not “stepparents” as defined in law. Because these individuals are not “stepparents,” there is a question about the effect of the adoption on the rights of the custodial parent. At a minimum, the agency and the court would have to consider whether or not the adoption would be in the best interests of the children. It is likely that the agency and the court might be concerned about the stability, or lack thereof, in a situation where someone who is not married to the biological custodial parent seeks to adopt. Clearly, it would be helpful if the legislature clarified whether or not this type of adoption should be approved and identified the procedure or steps to be applied in such cases.

Q: How long does it take to adopt?
It depends upon the type of adoption, and the facts of the case, such as legitimacy and whether and how long the child has lived with the prospective adoptive parents prior to the petition for adoption and whether they are related to the child. Unless there are special circumstances such that various requirements and consents may be circumvented, it generally takes approximately ten months for the adoption process.
Q: What is the Virginia Putative Father Registry?

The 2006 General Assembly passed into law Section 63.2-1249, which established the Putative Father Registry (VPFR) with the Virginia Department of Social Services. The purpose of the registry is to protect the rights of a putative father who wants to be notified in the event of a proceeding for adoption of, or the termination of parental rights regarding a child he may have fathered.

Virginia has established a confidential database to protect the rights of a putative father who desires to maintain rights to children he may father; it provides a uniform way for putative fathers to be notified in the event of proceedings to terminate the parental rights of putative fathers or for adoption.

Q: What if the birth father has been misled by the birth mother?
If the birth father has been misled by the birth mother who fraudulently told him that the pregnancy had been terminated or that the child died, then the birth father must be given ten days to register after the fraud is discovered. This means providing the birth father with notice of the adoption plan and information about the registry at his last known address. The ten days begins to run when the information is mailed to that address.
Q: How does the VPFR affect adoption proceedings?
The Virginia Putative Father Registry has no effect on adoption proceedings pertaining to legitimate children. With regard to illegitimate children, however, the Registry provides a uniform means of notification of proceedings for adoption or termination of rights to those fathers who have registered a desire for such notification and further provides a streamlined means of facilitating entry of an adoption order in those cases where the putative father has not registered.
Q: What is a putative father?
A man is considered a putative father if he may have fathered a child by a woman to whom he is/was not married; and a court has not determined that he is the child’s father; and he has not signed a written agreement acknowledging he is the child’s father; and he has not adopted the child.
Q: What happens when a child is adopted? What is affected by the adoption?
The relationship between the child and the biological parents (and family) is terminated. The termination of the relationship severs the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of the biological parents toward the child and severs the obligations of the child toward the biological parents. However, the adoption may or may not entirely sever the right of the adopted child to inherit from his or her birth parents, if they die without a will (intestate).
Q: Can the adoption be attacked later?
A key area of potential conflict is with regard to constitutional rights. Gender discrimination and denial of due process are two areas of litigation. Some people find the new putative father registry to be controversial, discriminatory, and violative of due process. However, as of this writing, there are no cases successfully attacking the Virginia Putative Father Registry. The best way to avoid a problem is to obtain consent, to obtain it voluntarily and with adequate counseling and knowledge of the consequences of the consent.

Virginia law does provide that once six months have passed since entry of the final adoption order, the order becomes final for all purposes and no attacks may be mounted against the adoption order.

Q: What is the next step I should take after reading this information?
If after reading over the foregoing questions and answers on adoption, you would like more specific advice about your unique situation, call 804-520-7060 for a confidential appointment with Attorney Virginia Perry. Or to contact us to let us know how we may assist you further, please click here.

We have experienced an upsurge in our adoption practice from adult stepchildren desiring to be adopted by their stepparents. This is the best present that the adult child could give his stepparent and usually represents the formalizing of the existing relationship within the family. This type of adoption is very simple, provided there is agreement among the parties. No home study or investigation is required. What is required is a petition for adoption signed under oath by the stepparent, a copy of the birth record of the adult to be adopted, a copy of the marriage license of the stepparent and birth parent, the written consent under oath of the adult child, a cover sheet for filing, a VS-12 form reporting the adoption to the Bureau of Vital Records, and a final adoption order. We usually have the birth parent who is married to the stepparent join in the petition to show their consent to the proceedings. (In addition to the attorney’s fee ($750-1,000), there is a filing fee to the court of $89.)

Once the paperwork is signed and notarized, we file it in the jurisdiction where the stepparent resides. Please note that if the stepparent does not reside in Virginia, you cannot file the adoption in Virginia. Assuming all parties reside here in Virginia and sign the necessary documents, it is a matter of the court reviewing the documents to determine if the statutes are satisfied and entering the final adoption order.

If you have any more questions about family law or would like to work with Perry Law Group, contact us & give us a call at 804-520-7060.
Perry Law Group in Cononial Heights, VA

Perry Law Group
3660 Boulevard Suite E,
Colonial Heights, VA 23834

Phone: 804-520-7060

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Friday 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
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