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The Vermont Statutes Online

 

Title 15A: Adoption Act

Chapter 004: ADOPTION OF MINOR STEPCHILD BY STEPPARENT

  • § 4-101. Standing to adopt minor stepchild

    (a) A stepparent has standing under this article to petition to adopt a minor stepchild who is the child of the stepparent's spouse if:

    (1) the spouse has sole legal and physical custody of the child and the child has been in the physical custody of the spouse and the stepparent during the six months prior to the filing of a petition for adoption;

    (2) the spouse has joint legal custody of the child with the child's other parent and the child has resided primarily with the spouse and the stepparent during the 12 months next preceding the filing of the petition;

    (3) the spouse is deceased or mentally incompetent, but before dying or being judicially declared mentally incompetent, had legal and physical custody of the child, and the child has resided primarily with the stepparent during the 12 months prior to the filing of the petition; or

    (4) an agency placed the child with the stepparent pursuant to section 2-103 of this title.

    (b) For good cause shown, a court may allow a person who does not meet the requirements of subdivisions (a)(1) through (4) of this section, but has the consent of the custodial parent of a minor to file a petition for adoption under this article. A petition allowed under this subsection shall be treated as if the petitioner were a stepparent.

    (c) A petition for adoption by a stepparent may be joined with a petition under Article 3, Part 5 of this title, to terminate the relationship of parent and child between a minor adoptee and the adoptee's parent who is not the stepparent's spouse. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-102. Legal consequences of adoption of stepchild

    (a) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (b) and (c) of this section, the legal consequences of an adoption of a stepchild by a stepparent are the same as under sections 1-103 through 1-106 of this title.

    (b) An adoption by a stepparent does not affect:

    (1) the legal relationship between the adoptee and the adoptee's parent who is the adoptive stepparent's spouse or deceased spouse;

    (2) the right of the adoptee or a descendant of the adoptee to inheritance or intestate succession through or from the adoptee's former parent; or

    (3) an existing court order for visitation or communication with a minor adoptee by a person related to the adoptee through the parent who is the adoptive stepparent's spouse or deceased spouse; or

    (4) a court order or agreement for visitation or communication with a minor adoptee approved by the court pursuant to section 4-112 of this title.

    (c) Failure to comply with an agreement or order for visitation or communication is not a ground for challenging the validity of an adoption by a stepparent. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 1997, No. 53, § 5, eff. June 26, 1997.)

  • § 4-103. Consent to adoption

    Unless consent is not required under section 2-402 of this title, a petition to adopt a minor stepchild may be granted only if consent to the adoption has been executed by a stepchild who has attained 14 years of age; and

    (1) the minor's parents as described in subsection 2-401(a) of this title;

    (2) the minor's guardian if expressly authorized by a court to consent to the minor's adoption; or

    (3) an agency that placed the minor for adoption by the stepparent. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-104. Content of consent by stepparent's spouse

    (a) A consent executed by a parent who is the stepparent's spouse shall be signed or confirmed in the presence of a person specified in section 2-405 of this title, or a person authorized to take acknowledgments.

    (b) A consent under subsection (a) of this section shall be in writing, shall contain the required statements described in subdivisions 2-406(a)(1) through (3) of this title and shall state that:

    (1) the parent executing the consent has legal and physical custody of the parent's minor child and voluntarily and unequivocally consents to the adoption of the minor by the stepparent;

    (2) the adoption will not terminate the parental relationship between the parent executing the consent and the minor child;

    (3) the right of the adoptee or a descendant of the adoptee to inheritance or intestate succession through or from the adoptee's former parent; and

    (4) the parent executing the consent understands and agrees that the adoption will terminate the relationship of parent and child between the minor's other parent and the minor, and will terminate any existing court order for custody, visitation, or communication with the minor, but:

    (A) the minor and any descendant of the minor will retain rights of inheritance from or through the minor's other parent;

    (B) a court order for visitation or communication with the minor by the parent executing the consent or by a person related to the minor through that parent, or an agreement or order concerning another person which is approved by the court pursuant to section 4-112 of this title survives the decree of adoption, but failure to comply with the terms of the order or agreement is not a ground for revoking or setting aside the consent or the adoption; and

    (C) the other parent remains liable for arrearages of child support, unless released from that obligation by the parent executing the consent, any guardian ad litem of the minor, and by a governmental entity providing public assistance to the minor.

    (c) A consent may not waive further notice of the proceeding for adoption of the minor by the stepparent. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-105. Content of consent by minor's other parent

    (a) A consent executed by a minor's parent who is not the stepparent's spouse shall be signed or confirmed in the presence of a person specified in section 2-405 of this title, or a person authorized to take acknowledgments.

    (b) A consent under subsection (a) of this section shall be in writing, shall contain the required statements described in subdivisions 2-406(a)(1) through (3) and (d)(3) through (6) of this title, and shall state that:

    (1) the parent executing the consent voluntarily and unequivocally consents to the adoption of the minor by the stepparent and the transfer to the stepparent's spouse and the adoptive stepparent of any right the parent executing the consent has to legal or physical custody of the minor;

    (2) the parent executing the consent understands and agrees that the adoption will terminate his or her parental relationship to the minor and will terminate any existing court order for custody, visitation, or communication with the minor, but:

    (A) the minor and any descendant of the minor will retain the rights of inheritance from or through the parent executing the consent;

    (B) a court order for visitation or communication with the minor by the parent executing the consent or a person related to the minor through the minor's other parent, or an agreement or order concerning another person which is approved by the court pursuant to section 4-112 of this title survives the decree of adoption, but failure to comply with the terms of the order or agreement is not a ground for revoking or setting aside the consent or the adoption; and

    (C) the parent executing the consent remains liable for arrearages of child support, unless released from that obligation by the other parent and any guardian ad litem of the minor and by a governmental entity providing public assistance to the minor; and

    (3) the parent executing the consent has provided the adoptive stepparent with applicable information required by section 2-105 of this title.

    (c) A consent under subsection (a) of this section may waive notice of the proceeding for adoption of the minor by the stepparent, unless the adoption is contested, appealed, or denied. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-106. Content of consent by other persons

    (a) A consent executed by the guardian of a minor stepchild or by an agency shall be in writing and signed or confirmed in the presence of the court, or in a manner the court directs, and:

    (1) shall state the circumstances under which the guardian or agency obtained the authority to consent to the adoption of the minor by a stepparent;

    (2) shall contain the statements required by sections 4-104 and 4-105 of this title, except for any that can be made only by a parent of the minor; and

    (3) may waive notice of the proceeding for adoption, unless the adoption is contested, appealed, or denied.

    (b) A consent executed by a minor stepchild in a proceeding for adoption by a stepparent shall be signed or confirmed in the presence of the court or in a manner the court directs. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-107. Petition to adopt

    A petition by a stepparent to adopt a minor stepchild shall be signed and verified by the petitioner and contain the following information or state why any of the information is not contained in the petition:

    (1) the information required by subdivisions 3-304(a)(1), (3), (5), and (8) through (12) and subsection 3-304(b) of this title;

    (2) the current marital status of the petitioner, including the date and place of marriage, the name and date and place of birth of the petitioner's spouse, and, if the spouse is deceased, the date, place, and cause of death and, if the spouse is found to be incompetent, the date on which a court declared the spouse incompetent;

    (3) the length of time the minor has been residing with the petitioner and the petitioner's spouse and, if the minor is not in the physical custody of the petitioner and the petitioner's spouse, the reason why they do not have custody and when they intend to obtain custody; and

    (4) the length of time the petitioner's spouse or the petitioner has had legal custody of the minor and the circumstances under which legal custody was obtained. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; amended 2009, No. 3, § 12a, eff. Sept. 1, 2009; 2013, No. 96 (Adj. Sess.), § 75.)

  • § 4-108. Required documents

    (a) After a petition to adopt a minor stepchild is filed, the following shall be filed in the proceeding:

    (1) any item required by subsection 3-305(a) of this title which the court determines is relevant to an adoption by a stepparent; and

    (2) a copy of any agreement to waive arrearages of child support.

    (b) If any of the items required by subsection (a) of this section is not available, the person responsible for furnishing the item shall file an affidavit explaining its absence. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-109. Notice of pendency of proceeding

    Within 30 days after a petition to adopt a minor stepchild is filed, the court shall serve notice of the proceeding upon:

    (1) the petitioner's spouse;

    (2) any other person whose consent to the adoption is required under this article;

    (3) any person described in subdivisions 3-401(a)(3), (4), and (6) and subsection 3-401(b) of this title; and

    (4) the parents of the minor's parent whose parental relationship will be terminated by the adoption unless the identity or the whereabouts of those parents are unknown. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-110. Evaluation of stepparent

    (a) After a petition for adoption of a minor stepchild is filed, the court may order that an evaluation be made by a person qualified under section 2-202 of this title to assist the court in determining whether the proposed adoption is in the best interest of the minor.

    (b) The court shall provide an evaluator with copies of the petition for adoption and of the items filed with the petition.

    (c) Unless otherwise directed by the court, an evaluator shall base the evaluation on a personal interview with the petitioner and the petitioner's spouse in the petitioner's residence, observation of the relationship between the minor and the petitioner, a personal interview with others who know the petitioner and may have information relevant to the examination, and any information received pursuant to subsection (d) of this section.

    (d) An evaluation under this section shall be in writing and contain the following:

    (1) the information required by subsections 2-203(d) and (e) of this title; and

    (2) the information required by subdivisions 3-602(b)(2) through (5) of this title.

    (e) Subsection 3-603(b) of this title shall apply to an evaluation under this section.

    (f) If the court does not order an evaluation, the preference of the minor who is less than 14 years old shall be taken into consideration, if the minor is mature enough to express a preference.

    (g) Whether or not an evaluation is ordered, the court shall obtain the information required by subdivisions 2-203(d)(7)-(9).

    (h) The court may charge a reasonable fee for services it performs pursuant to this section. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-111. Dispositional hearing: decree of adoption

    Sections 3-701 through 3-707 of this title apply to a proceeding for adoption of a minor stepchild by a stepparent, but the court may waive the requirements of section 3-702 of this title. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-112. Visitation agreement and order

    (a) Upon the request of the petitioner, the petitioner's spouse, the adoptee's other parent or a relative of the adoptee, the court shall review a written agreement that permits another person to visit or communicate with the minor after the decree of adoption becomes final. The agreement shall be signed by the person, the petitioner, the petitioner's spouse, the minor if 14 years of age or older, and, if an agency placed the minor for adoption, an authorized employee of the agency.

    (b) The court may enter an order approving the agreement only upon determining that the agreement is in the best interest of the minor adoptee. In making this determination, the court shall consider:

    (1) the preference of the minor, if the minor is mature enough to express a preference;

    (2) any special needs of the minor and how they would be affected by performance of the agreement;

    (3) the length and quality of any existing relationship between the minor and the person who would be entitled to visit or communicate, and the likely effect on the minor of allowing this relationship to continue;

    (4) the specific terms of the agreement and the likelihood that the parties to the agreement will cooperate in performing its terms;

    (5) the recommendation of the minor's guardian ad litem, attorney, social worker, or other counselor; and

    (6) any other factor relevant to the best interest of the minor.

    (c) In addition to any agreement approved pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of this section, the court may approve the continuation of an existing order or issue a new order permitting the minor adoptee's former parent, grandparent, or sibling to visit or communicate with the minor if:

    (1) the grandparent is the parent of a deceased parent of the minor or the parent of the adoptee's parent whose parental relationship to the minor is terminated by the decree of adoption;

    (2) the former parent, grandparent, or sibling requests that an existing order be permitted to survive the decree of adoption or that a new order be issued; and

    (3) the court determines that the requested visitation or communication is in the best interest of the minor.

    (d) In making a determination under subdivision (c)(3) of this section, the court shall consider the factors listed in subsection (b) and any objections to the requested order by the adoptive stepparent and the stepparent's spouse.

    (e) An order issued under this section may be enforced in a civil action only if the court finds that enforcement is in the best interest of a minor adoptee.

    (f) An order issued under this section may not be modified unless the court finds that modification is in the best interest of a minor adoptee, and:

    (1) the persons subject to the order request the modification; or

    (2) exceptional circumstances arising since the order was issued justify the modification.

    (g) Failure to comply with the terms of an order approved under this section or with any other agreement for visitation or communication is not a ground for revoking, setting aside, or otherwise challenging the validity of a consent, relinquishment, or adoption pertaining to a minor stepchild, and the validity of the consent, relinquishment, and adoption is not affected by any later action to enforce, modify, or set aside the order or agreement. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)

  • § 4-113. Other provisions applicable to adoption of stepchild

    Except as otherwise provided by this article, Article 3 of this title applies to an adoption of a minor stepchild by a stepparent. (Added 1995, No. 161 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)