George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School

M-VETS Finalizes Stepparent Adoption for Army Veteran After Birth Mother Loses Battle with Cancer

(Pictured: Rachel Petrik)

The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic assisted an Army Veteran in adopting his two adult stepchildren after their birth mother, the Veteran’s wife, passed away from a long battle with cancer. The Veteran married the girls’ mother in 2009, but several years later was himself diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer. Shortly after the Veteran’s remission, his wife was also diagnosed with cancer. The Veteran resigned his teaching position to take care of his wife full time, but despite fighting the battle for two years, his wife passed away in 2017. Though always intending to adopt his stepchildren, it became more important than ever that the Veteran do so with the passing of the children’s mother, so the Veteran and his stepchildren, now adults attending college, sought the assistance of M-VETS in legally binding their familial relationship.

With the consent of the adult stepchildren, M-VETS was able to file the Petition for Adoption, including all affidavits, proposed orders and vital statistics forms. In March of 2019, the Prince William County Circuit Court entered the Final Order of Adoption, concluding the matter favorably for the Veteran and his family. M-VETS Student Advisor Rachel Petrik worked with the Veteran beginning in the fall of 2018 and was able to bring the matter to a quick resolution through her diligence and hard work.

“In this case, we had very motivated clients and a hard working Student Advisor, which resulted in a quick resolution,” said M-VETS Deputy Director, Leigh Winstead. “Rachel did an outstanding job with the case, completing the intake assessment, engaging the clients, completing all required court filings, and receiving a Final Order of Adoption in the span of six months—a portion of which was over the law school’s winter break. Rachel worked through the break to make sure the clients’ case pushed forward,” Winstead said.

“These clients have faced so much hardship and adversity over the last several years, yet they remain positive and have found strength in time of sorrow. Their story is heartwarming and inspirational. We are just happy to be able to bring some relief and a favorable outcome to these clients after all they have endured,” said Winstead.

“Helping my wife raise her two daughters has been a joy,” said the Veteran. “Unfortunately, I had to wait until they were adults to legally adopt them. To complicate matters further, my wife passed away before both girls reached 18, plus they had foreign birth certificates.

“Rachel deftly navigated these and other obstacles to successfully process the adoptions. We have been waiting a decade for this! From my daughters and I, and on behalf of their mom, thank you for a job well done,” said the Veteran.

M-VETS mission is to provide free legal representation to active-duty members of the armed forces, veterans, and their families while offering law students the opportunity to receive supervised, practical legal experience by advocating for those who serve or have served in our United States armed forces. M-VETS provides representation in a variety of matters including Virginia civil litigation matters, uncontested divorces, consumer protection matters, wills and powers of attorney, as well as assisting with matters before the VA and various administrative boards, including discharge upgrades, record corrections, military pay and entitlement matters, and VA disability benefit appeals.