What Rights Do Stepparents Have in West Virginia?

A mother hugging her daughter.

People can be family even if they aren’t blood related. In many instances, stepparents and adoptive parents are a bigger part of children’s lives than their biological parents. Unfortunately, even if children are in better hands with their stepparents, a stepparent’s rights are often limited when compared with a child’s biological parents’ rights.

That’s generally unimportant unless a stepparent and their stepchildren’s biological parent get a divorce and they battle for custody of the kids. It could also be an issue if the biological parent who is the stepparent’s spouse dies because the stepparent might have to battle their stepchildren’s other biological parent and/or biological relatives for custody.

Can Stepparents Get Custody of Their Stepchildren in West Virginia?

In West Virginia, fit biological parents have a fundamental right to custody of their children. However, if a child’s biological or legal parents are unfit, there is a chance that another person, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or stepparent, can petition the court to become the child’s legal guardian. If a stepparent is divorcing a child’s biological parent and seeks to gain custody of their stepchild, their divorce and their guardianship petition will be separate legal actions.

Can Stepparents Adopt Their Stepchildren in West Virginia?

Stepparents can adopt their stepchildren in West Virginia. This generally happens when a stepparent is still happily married to one of a child’s biological parents, but that’s not always the case. Adoption allows a stepparent to become their stepchildren’s legal parent. Stepparent adoption is permanent, meaning that even if the stepparent and their stepchild’s biological parent get divorced (or the biological parent passes away), the stepparent will remain the child’s legal parent.

If the stepchild’s other biological parent’s (the biological parent who isn’t the stepparent’s spouse) parental rights haven’t been terminated, then they will have to consent to the stepparent adopting the child. Convincing a biological parent to do this can be extremely difficult, because if biological parents who aren’t married to a stepparent consent to the stepparent adopting their kids, they lose their parental rights. On the other hand, it also means that the birth parent is giving up all parental responsibilities, like paying child support. In addition, children who are 12 years old or older must consent to their stepparent adopting them.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Experienced Child Custody & Adoption Attorneys

Choosing to become a stepparent or adoptive parent is a brave and unselfish choice. Stepparents and adoptive parents don’t have to take responsibility for a child’s life, but they choose to do it despite the many obstacles they could face because of it. It’s a hard job that can be made even more difficult if they face complications during the adoption process or a contentious custody battle.

At Sutton & Janelle, PLLC, we understand the many problems that stepparents and adoptive parents can face during the child custody and adoption processes. Our experienced adoption and child custody lawyers have helped several clients successfully adopt or secure legal custody of children. Our family law legal team has more than 70 years of collective experience. It’s always our top priority to ensure that when the job’s done, our clients walk away happy with our services, knowing we secured the best possible outcome for their situation.

For more information about Sutton & Janelle, PLLC, check out our reviews.

To set up a confidential, no-obligation case evaluation with our adoption and child custody attorneys, reach out to us online or call us at (304) 867-0049.

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