Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Turner Thornton
Thinking about adopting your stepchild? This noble gesture will not only cement the deep bond between you and your stepchild, but it will provide lifelong stability and security to a principal member of the family unit. In some cases, stepparent adoption in Texas can be complicated, but with the right preparation and guidance, you can make this dream a reality.
In this blog post, we’ll go over what you need to know about step-parent adoption in Texas. But first, please watch this video by senior associate attorney, Kristen Carr, who loves helping families through the adoption process.
What is stepparent adoption in Texas?
In Texas, stepparent adoption is the legal process by which a stepparent can adopt their spouse's child. Once the adoption is finalized, the stepparent will be the child's legal guardian and share all the parental rights and responsibilities. The child will have a new birth certificate, a new name if desired, and the same legal rights as any other child in the family, including inheritance rights.
What criteria must be met for a stepparent adoption in Texas?
In order to file a petition for stepparent adoption in Texas, one of the following criteria must be met:
* The child only has one living biological parent (the other bio parent is deceased);
* The stepchild is a grown adult and can consent to the adoption;
* There is only one biological parent present because the other chooses not to be involved, cannot be located, or whose identity is unknown;
* The other parent is willing to sign documents releasing them of responsibility
What if the other biological parent won't consent to the adoption?
If the other biological parent does not consent to the adoption, the stepparent can still adopt their stepchild - but first the other parent's parental rights must be terminated. This is a drastic legal step that a judge would not agree to without careful consideration and only if it is in the best interest of the child.
To terminate rights, the court needs to find at least one statutory grounds for termination, such as child abandonment, failure to provide support, incarceration or child abuse. The court must also find that terminating the biological parent's rights is in the best interest of the child, taking into account the child's age, physical and emotional needs, present living situation, and any other relevant factors.
If the other parent won't consent to the adoption and you are prepared to fight for your family, it's imperative that you have an attorney who is experienced in family law and stepparent adoption in Texas.
What is the stepparent adoption process in Texas?
In Texas, the law will not allow a child to have more than two legal parents - so the rights of one of the parents must be terminated in order for a stepparent adoption to occur. Under Texas Family Code 162.001(b), stepparent adoption is basically a two-step process that requires:
* Termination of the rights of the biological parent;
* Adoption by the other parent's spouse.
What is the first step in a stepparent adoption in Texas?
The first step in any adoption is to contact an experienced family law/adoption attorney who can guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Once you have an attorney, they will help you navigate the process, which begins by filing a petition for adoption with the court.
The type of petition for adoption depends on whether a parent-child relationship exists between the child and the child’s other parent (who is not married to the stepparent):
* If the child’s other parent is alive and there is no court order of termination of parental rights between the child and the child’s other parent, you will file an Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Stepparent Adoption.
* If the child’s other parent is deceased or there is already court order of termination of parental rights between the child and the child’s other parent, you will file an Original Petition for Adoption.
The next step is to give notice to the other biological parent, either in person or by certified mail, of your intention to adopt their child. At that point, the stepchild's biological parent will need to sign documents and consent to the adoption. If they will not consent to the adoption, you will need to seek to have their parental rights terminated, which could result in a contested court hearings.
Once the rights have been terminated, you will complete the process by going to court to finalize the adoption. An experienced family law attorney can walk you through all of the steps and explain what to expect at every stage of the process of stepparent adoption in Texas.
Does my stepchild need to live with my spouse and I before the adoption?
Yes, the law requires that the child live with their stepparent for at least six months before the adoption can be finalized. This is to ensure that the child is comfortable with and bonded to their new parent and that the decision to adopt is in the best interest of the child.
Does the opinion of my stepchild matter in the adoption process?
Yes, if the child is age 12 or older, then he or she will have a say in the adoption process. The stepchild must consent in writitng or in person in court, giving permission for you to more forward with the adoption.
If the child is 10 or younger and the adoption will change his or her name, the child must consent to the name change in writing.
Why adopt your stepchild?
There are many reasons why parents choose to adopt their stepchildren. For some, it's a way to solidify the family bond. Others may want to provide stability and security for their stepchild, especially if they have been in the child's life since they were very young. Additionally, adopting your stepchild can simplify daily activities, such as taking them to doctor's appointments or signing them up for school.
Ready proceed with a stepparent adoption in Texas?
If you are in North Texas and are ready to embark on one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, pick up the phone and call Varghese Summersett Family Law at 817-900-3220. We are here to help you through every step of the stepparent adoption process in Texas. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled family law attorneys. We look forward to helping you build your family.