What to know before adopting a Vietnamese child
I am an American citizen and have been married to a Vietnamese woman for two years. My wife has an eight-year-old daughter from her previous marriage. Am I allowed to adopt my stepdaughter?
Mr. Dominguez Santos Ivan and Mrs. Jung Cosima and their newly adopted child Nguyen Hoang Nam at the child handover and receipt ceremony in Dak Nong province on Feb. 24__Photo:

I am an American citizen and have been married to a Vietnamese woman for two years. My wife has an eight-year-old daughter from her previous marriage. Am I allowed to adopt my stepdaughter? 

You may adopt your wife’s own daughter but please note that there are several conditions that must be satisfied.

Firstly, your wife’s daughter must satisfy the conditions for being adopted.

Article 8 of the 2010 Law on Adoption (the Law) stipulates:

·        Only children aged under 16 years may be adopted.

·        A person aged between full 16 years and under 18 years may be adopted by either his/her step father or step mother or natural aunt or uncle.

·        A person may only be adopted by one single person or one married couple.

Secondly, you have to fully satisfy the conditions on adoptive parents specified in Article 14 of the Law, including being aged at least full 18 years and having full civil act capacity and good ethical qualities.

In addition, you must not fall into the following cases:

- Having some of the parental rights over a minor child restricted;

- Currently executing an administrative handling decision at an educational institution or medical treatment establishment;

- Currently serving an imprisonment penalty;

- Having a criminal record for any of the crimes of intentionally infringing upon another’s life, health, dignity or honor not yet expunged;

- Having committed acts of maltreating or persecuting grandparents, parents, spouse, children, grandchildren or caretaker;

- Enticing or compelling a minor to act against the law or harboring a minor violator; trafficking in, fraudulently swapping or appropriating children.

As soon as all the above-mentioned conditions are fully satisfied, you may adopt your stepdaughter.

Do I have to obtain my wife’s consent if I want to adopt her natural child? Could you tell me about the rights and obligations of foreign stepfathers/stepmothers toward adopted Vietnamese children?

According to Article 21 of the Law, you must get the consent of your wife or your stepdaughter’s biological father. If your wife is dead or missing or has lost her civil act capacity or is unidentifiable, you have to get the consent of your stepdaughter’s natural father and vice versa. If both your wife and your stepdaughter’s biological father are dead or missing or have lost their civil act capacity or are unidentifiable, you must gain the consent of the guardian of the child.

Under Article 24.1 of the Law, from the date of delivery and receipt of an adopted child, the adoptive parents and adopted child will have all the rights and obligations between parents and child; and the adopted child and other members of the adoptive parents’ family will also have the rights and obligations towards one another as prescribed by the law on marriage and family, the civil law and other relevant laws. 

Accordingly, from the date you register the adoption of your wife’s own daughter, you will have parental responsibilities toward your stepdaughter such as caring for, nurturing, and educating her. You will also act as the at-law representative of your stepdaughter until she becomes mature or in case she loses her civil act capacity. Meanwhile, your stepdaughter has to love, respect and care for you. Both your adopted daughter and you have the right to inherit each other’s asset in accordance with the law on inheritance.

The Law stipulates legal relationship between the adopted child and other members of the adoptive parents’ family. Once becoming a member of your family, your stepdaughter will have the same rights and obligations as your biological children.

The Law also allows adoptive parents to change their adopted children’s names but in case the adopted children are aged full nine years or more, the latter’s consent is required.     

What are the formalities for foreign stepfathers/stepmothers to adopt their Vietnamese spouse’s biological children?

The current Law stipulates the procedures for stepfathers/stepmothers to adopt their spouse’s biological children.

Accordingly, the first step of the formalities is preparing two dossiers - one for the adoptive parent and the other for the to-be-adopted child which must be made by his/her biological parent or guardian.

In your case, you will have to compile the dossier for yourself and your wife will prepare the other for her daughter.

- Your dossier must comprise an adoption application, a copy of your passport or valid substitute paper, your criminal record certificate, and a copy of the certificate of marriage of you and your wife.

- The dossier for your stepdaughter must comprise her birth certificate, health certificate issued by a district- or higher-level health agency, and two full body straight photos, taken within the last six months.

Submitting the dossiers is the second step of the procedures. In this step, your wife will submit her daughter’s dossier to the Justice Department of the province or centrally run city where her daughter permanently resides. You will have to submit your dossier together with the copy of your stepdaughter’s dossier to the Ministry of Justice’s Child Adoption Department.

After receiving your to-be-adopted child’s dossier, the provincial-level Justice Department will check the dossier and consult related persons. After completing the examination, if seeing the child is eligible for inter-country adoption, the provincial-level Justice Department shall certify her eligibility, and inform you and your wife thereof and forward her dossier, enclosed with the written certification of her eligibility for inter-country adoption and opinions of her biological parent or guardian, to the Ministry of Justice’s Child Adoption Department. As for case in which the to-be-adopted child is aged full nine years or older, the child’s written consent will be required.

At the final step, your dossier and your to-be-adopted child’s dossier will be examined and verified by the Ministry of Justice’s Child Adoption Department within 15 days after the latter receives such dossiers.

In case your application is approved, the Ministry of Justice’s Child Adoption Department will forward your dossier and your to-be-adopted child’s dossier to the provincial-level Justice Department and the latter will inform you thereof within 15 days. The provincial-level Justice Department will organize a child handover and receipt ceremony where you will be handed over the child, together with her dossier, as her adoptive father.

When necessary, you may ask the Ministry of Justice’s Child Adoption Department to issue a certificate of inter-country adoption under the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

If rejecting your adoption application, the Child Adoption Department will return the dossier to you and issue a written reply, clearly stating the reasons.-(VLLF)


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