Adopting your spouse’s child as a step-parent can be an emotional experience, and despite the many reasons for wanting to adopt your spouse’s child, Texas family law is designed to help bring families together. As such, if you’re considering adoption, you have a lot of resources to help you out. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to know where to start. As your Mansfield-Fort Worth adoption attorney, we at the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart can help you through the stepparent adoption process.
Although the law is on your side to make this process as easy and straightforward as possible, it’s essential to understand the specific steps in adopting your spouse’s child. To speak with attorney Hart about how you can begin this wonderful process, call our Mansfield-Fort Worth law office today at (817) 842-2336.
What Is Stepparent Adoption?
In Texas, stepparent adoption occurs when the spouse of a biological parent petitions to the courts in order to obtain legal parental rights over the stepchild. For the most part, stepparent adoption is very similar to the regular adoption process. A major difference between the two, however, is that stepparent adoption is only permissible under specific circumstances. For instance, only one of the following needs to be true:
- The adoptee is an adult (it is not necessary in this case to get permission from the absent biological parent)
- There is only one living biological parent
- The absent biological parent is in agreement with the stepparent and is willing to sign the appropriate documentation
- Only one biological parent is active in the child’s life, whether the absent biological parent is away by choice or his/her whereabouts are unknown. In some cases, the identity of the absent biological parent is unknown.
Following the adoption, the child will have the following benefits:
- Two active parents in his/her life
- New birth certificate
- Ability to inherit from the stepparent
- Can establish a new name if desired
The Stepparent Adoption Process in Texas
As mentioned, adopting your spouse’s child is quite similar to the regular adoption process in Texas, as long as one of the above conditions apply. As such, adopting your spouse’s child is a two-step process, including:
- Terminating the parental rights of the noncustodial parent
- Adoption by the remaining parent’s spouse
You can find the extent of Texas law regarding adoption in the Texas Family Code Section 162.001(b)(1).
Termination of Parental Rights
After submitting an adoption petition (more on this below), you can move onto the next step: terminating the parental rights of the absent parent. Of course, this step only applies if the absent parent is known and alive. In some cases, the custodial biological parent can terminate the absent parent’s parental rights by signing an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights. If both parents are alive, the absent birth parent must agree to terminate his/her parental rights before the Texas family courts.
In addition to a voluntary termination of parental rights, there is also an involuntary termination of rights, where the absent parent refuses to consent to a termination of rights. In this situation, the case moves to court. To terminate rights without the other parent’s consent, the courts need to find at least one statutory ground for termination. The courts also need to be sure that the termination is in the child’s best interest.
Petitioning for Adoption
When the stepparent is married to the biological parent, he/she can petition the courts to adopt. Generally, you will need to file the petition to adopt in the juvenile court of the county where the child lives. Furthermore, Texas law requires that both spouses file a joint petition for adoption. Following a successful termination of parental rights, the next step is a social study that involves:
- Home visit
- Evaluation of employment and financial records
- Initial screening with the parents and children
After the social study, an amicus attorney (a non-biased attorney appointed by the court) repeats some of the previous evaluations and provides an opinion to the court.
Contact the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart
Regardless of the circumstances for wanting to adopt your spouse’s child, it’s always important to remember that courts consider the child’s best interests above all else. Although the courts will thoroughly review any documentation and conduct comprehensive investigations, it’s critical to have a dedicated and passionate attorney who can help the petitioning stepparent prepare and file these documents. At the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart, we boast years of experience helping families come together in the Mansfield-Fort Worth area. To speak with family attorney Hart, call our law office today at (817) 842-2336.