Adopting a child can be one of the most exciting processes for parents and families to go through. While many families make the decision to adopt for various reasons, stepparent adoption is the most common. Over 100,000 child adoptions occur within the U.S. each year. Examining the ins-and-outs of stepparent adoption and what it entails in Texas can help prospective adoptive stepparents understand the process of obtaining legal custody of their spouse’s child.
What is Stepparent Adoption?
Stepparent adoption refers to the process in which someone makes the decision to become a legal parent for his or her spouse’s child. While adopting a stepchild isn’t necessary, stepparent adoption means the stepparent’s role as a parental figure in the child’s life will be legally recognized. Some of the benefits that come with adopting a stepchild include:
- An adoptive stepparent having legal custody of a stepchild, allows the adoptive stepparent to leave the child an inheritance, as well as permits the child to receive insurance benefits.
- Mentally, adopting a stepchild can provide a sense of finality and stability for the whole family.
- Many tasks – like setting up doctors’ appointments, obtaining medical records, and even dropping off and picking up a child from school – are often easier when one is recognized as a legal parent.
Stepparent Adoption in Texas
While the process of adopting a stepchild is similar to many other types of adoptions, there are unique aspects as well. In Texas, the following steps must be taken for a stepparent adoption to be valid:
Termination of Parental Rights
When initiating the process of adopting a stepchild in Texas, the other biological parent must first have their parental rights terminated. If the biological parent consents to the stepparent adoption, this can be done through filing an Affidavit of Relinquishment. The affidavit must include information about the child or children involved, a statement asserting the relinquishing parent understands the agreement, and then a notation as to who will become the managing conservator of the child or children. The affidavit must be signed in the presence of two witnesses in order to be valid.
Even if a child has been living with a stepparent for a substantial amount of time, a thorough home study must still be conducted before a stepparent adoption can be finalized. This process proves the stepparent is ready to legally adopt the child, that they fully comprehend their obligations to the child, and that they are physically, emotionally, and financially prepared to raise and care for the child.
Consent of the Child
When a stepparent seeks to adopt a child 12 years old or older, the child must legally consent. The child will generally sign in a document indicating they consent to the adoption and/or attend the court proceedings where they can be questioned by the judge or other trier of fact. Even if the child does not explicitly consent, this requirement can be waived if a judge decides that requiring the child’s permission would go against their best interests.
In order for a stepparent adoption to be finalized, the stepparent, their spouse, and the child (if they are age 12 years or older), must attend the adoption hearing. In the event the child will cannot attend the hearing, providing a written statement of their consent to the judge can suffice.
While making the decision to pursue a stepparent adoption can be incredibly exciting and bring families together, the process can also be complex. Because of this, it’s important that families have an experienced Texas adoption attorney by their side. At Terry & Roberts, our team of attorneys exclusively handle family law cases, and we will work to further the best interests of your children while navigating the relevant legal proceedings. If you are interested in pursuing an adoption, contact our office today to set up a confidential consultation.