I Remarried. Does My New Spouse Have Legal Rights to My Birth Children?

In West Virginia, your new spouse does not automatically get legal custody of children you had with your previous spouse. Any health, educational, and decisions affecting the overall well-being of your child are left to the birth parents of the child. If you remarried and you would like your new spouse to have legal custody of your child, you will have to file for a stepparent adoption, which means you and your new spouse will have to formally ask to adopt your birth child.

Obtaining Consent from the Other Birth Parent

In a stepparent adoption, West Virginia law requires that your child’s other parent give written consent to have their parental rights terminated. Oftentimes, this is difficult because giving up parental rights means the parent loses all custody and visitation rights. Additionally, the other parent may no longer be required to pay child support. Also, if your child is 12 or older, he or she will also have to give consent to be adopted by your new spouse.

Because giving up parental rights results in the other birth parent’s loss of legal responsibility to his or her child, he or she may not agree to give consent. The adoption process becomes a little more complicated if the other parent does not consent. In such cases, you may have to provide evidence to the court that the other birth parent has abandoned the child.

In some instances, the other birth parent will not have to give consent if it has been shown that he or she has abandoned the child. Abandonment means that the other birth parent did not visit, contact, or provide financial support for the child for more than six months. In these cases, you will need to provide evidence to the courts to show this is the case.

A Home Study Evaluation May Be Conducted

A home study may need to be conducted to determine if the child will be raised in a stable and consistent environment that will provide for the child’s well-being. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources can conduct this study, and you can contact them to start the home study process. The home study many not need to be conducted if the stepparent has been in the child’s life for some time or if the other birth parent abandoned the child.

Our Berkeley County Family Lawyers Can Help You

If the judge agrees to the adoption and your new spouse is given legal custody of your birth child, your new spouse will be legally and financially responsible for your child.

Legal issues in regards to child custody can be emotionally wearing and complex. At Sutton & Janelle, PLLC, our family lawyers can help you smoothly navigate the laws pertaining to child custody matters.

Contact us at Sutton & Janelle, PLLC to discuss your custody matter with one of our family lawyers in Berkley County.

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