Thinking About Going Through the Stepparent Adoption Process in Texas? Read This First!

Stepparent adoption is a way to provide legal recognition for the relationship a stepparent has with their spouse’s children, particularly when the other parent is not involved. The official legal status of an adoptive parent provides practical benefits for the child. In addition, it protects the rights of a stepparent who has become the sole other parent in the upbringing of their spouse’s child. At the same, it is also an important and emotional step that draws the whole family closer together. All of these reasons taken together, it is no wonder then that stepparent adoption is the most common form of adoption in the United States.

If you are a stepparent in Texas actively involved in your stepchild’s life but the child’s other biological parent is not, you and your spouse may be considering initiating the stepparent adoption process. What steps do you need to take and what potential challenges do you need to be prepared for along the way? Specific statutes in Texas family law govern the adoption process and clearly define the requirements that must be met for the adoption process to be successful. In this blog, we will explore some of them.

Important Preliminary Step

A stepparent adoption is usually much easier and more straightforward than the non-stepparent adoption process.

The first, and most difficult hurdle, is that the parental rights of the other living biological parent must be terminated. The biological parent may consent to the termination. From a legal perspective, this forever ends the parent-child rights and privileges between the other biological parent and the child. For that reason, it may be sometimes challenging to obtain the biological parent’s consent for a stepparent adoption.

If the other biological parent does not consent to the termination of parental rights, then there must be specific reasons for termination that fit within the Texas statute. Also, a court has to decide if it is in child’s best interest to terminate the parental rights of the other biological parent.

It is vital that you consult an experienced Texas family law attorney in order to maximize your chances of a positive outcome.

Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s

Once there is no legal relationship with the other biological parent (either through death or termination), the stepparent adoption process is straightforward. Still, it is important that you carefully follow all the legal requirements the stepparent adoption process entails. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The stepparent’s spouse (remaining biological parent) must join them in filing the adoption case. Both of them are joint petitioners in this process.
  • The adoption case must be filed in the area either where the child lives or where the petitioners live. It may be filed in a district court or a statutory court with jurisdiction over family law cases.
  • The court will appoint another attorney to represent the best interests and wishes of your stepchild.
  • In most cases, it is required that you have lived with your stepchild for at least 6 months before the adoption can be granted.
  • If your stepchild is 12 years or older, they must consent to the adoption.
  • There will be an adoption evaluation conducted by a person licensed to conduct such evaluations. This involves a multi-hour interview with you and your spouse in your home, an inspection of your home, and an age-appropriate interview of your child. There is, of course, a fee associated with this evaluation.
  • You must provide a criminal history background through a finger printing process. If you have any recent criminal history, the court may not approve the adoption.

Benefits of Stepparent Adoption

As a stepparent, it is likely that you already have a close emotional bond with your stepchild. However, having this relationship recognized by the law involves some tangible and practical benefits that secure the rights of both stepparent and the child. Some of them are:

  • Legal recognition as a parent – when you are legally recognized as a parent, many parental tasks, such as making doctor’s appointments, obtaining child’s medical records, or even picking the child from school become completely hassle-free.
  • Financial protection – an adopted stepchild may be entitled to inheritance rights and insurance or social security benefits in case an unfortunate event befalls the stepparent.
  • Feeling of stability – once the relationship between a child and their stepparent is legally recognized, the whole family benefits from the sense of stability and finality it entails

If you are considering a stepparent adoption in Texas and need legal advice, Fraser, Wilson & Bryan, P.C. will gladly review the circumstances of your case and represent you throughout the process. Contact us today!