Guide to Step Parent Adoptions in Texas (2023)

Stepparent Adoptions in Texas

Adopting a child can be one of the most exciting processes for parents and families to go through. For some, this means bringing in a child from an outside situation, but many adoptions involve a child who is already part of the home. Stepchildren often rely on their parent’s new spouse for love, guidance, and financial stability. Choosing to legally adopt a stepchild shows love and gives them a strong future.

To understand more, our Texas adoption lawyers discuss the ins and outs of stepparent adoption and what it entails in our state. We aim to help prospective adoptive stepparents understand the process of obtaining legal custody of their spouse’s child.

What is Stepparent Adoption?

stepparent adoptionStepparent adoption refers to the court process in which someone chooses and completes the steps necessary to become the legal parent of their spouse’s child. While adopting a stepchild isn’t necessary, this form of adoption means the stepparent’s role as a parental figure in the child’s life will be legally recognized. It brings more formality to a relationship and provides significant benefits to both the stepparent and the children.

Stepparents often fulfill many of the emotional and financial functions of a biological parent. In fact, most stepparents would say they consider their stepchildren as important to them as naturally-born children. However, until the child is adopted, there are some actions involving the child’s life that the stepparent cannot legally oversee.

Many families live together and raise their children to adulthood without the formal adoption of stepchildren by their non-biological parents. Yet, adoption can provide better security in the face of unexpected life events. Adopting a stepchild in Texas is complicated, requiring several steps. One of the most challenging is securing the termination of parental rights from the other biological parent. This is when consulting with an experienced family law attorney can help.

How Terry & Roberts Can Support Your Stepparent Adoption Efforts

The National Council for Child Adoption (NCFA) reports that, of the 39,601 private adoptions that occurred in 2020, 50% were stepparent adoptions. Thousands of families are choosing to establish formal recognition of their stepparent-stepchild relationship. At Terry & Roberts, we are dedicated to helping the families of Texas complete this process as quickly and easily as possible.

Our Pearland adoption attorneys have managed dozens of these cases, putting our 90-plus years of combined experience to work for every client. Stepparent adoptions have a crucial difference from standard adoptions, and that is an already thriving relationship between parent and child. Our team emphasizes this to work to your advantage during the adoption process. We also make the process easier by providing:

  • Education: From our first meeting, we answer your questions and provide the detail you need to understand the stepparent adoption process in Texas.
  • Filing and deadline management: We gather the information needed to complete forms on your behalf. We then file those and ensure you do not miss any critical deadlines.
  • Securing the termination of parental rights: There are many actions we can take to obtain this vital document from the non-custodial parent, removing the stress and worry from your shoulders.
  • Finalizing the adoption: We update you throughout the process and are by your side all the way until the final adoption hearing before a judge.

We work to reduce the worries and stress of this process for you. While adoption can seem frustratingly slow at times, we help you stay focused on the larger goal as we work through the required steps.

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

The first hurdle in securing a successful stepparent adoption is to convince the other biological parent to terminate their parental rights. Regardless of their actions towards the child, they still have legal rights until they sign a document waiving them. Since Texas law only recognizes one set of parents for a child, you and your spouse must have this document to proceed with the adoption.

The easiest way is to ask the other biological parent to sign an Affidavit of Relinquishment terminating their rights. 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.

Most termination situations involve ending the legal rights of the father, since mothers tend to maintain custody. Even if the father’s paternity is in question, if their name is on the child’s birth certificate, they must give their consent to end their parental rights. In rare cases, the mother’s termination of rights can be granted when the circumstances warrant.

Home Study

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 allows representatives of the court to verify that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

They will look for evidence proving the stepparent is ready to adopt the child legally. Most importantly, it’s important to show the stepparent fully comprehends 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 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.

Court Proceedings

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 cannot attend the hearing, they can provide a written statement of their consent to the judge instead.

What Happens When the Other Biological Parent Doesn’t Consent to the Adoption?

Agreeing to sign an affidavit to end parental rights can be an emotionally difficult decision, even for a parent who is not involved in their child’s life. Because of this, many non-custodial parents will be fine with the stepparent caring and providing for their child but will resist handing over their rights to that same person. The struggle can be exhausting and bog down the adoption process.

There are options for families that want to move forward. They can petition the court to terminate the other parent’s rights involuntarily in certain situations, such as:

  • The other parent has abandoned the child completely, expressing no intent to come back.
  • The parent put the child in danger or allowed others to endanger them.
  • The parent has engaged in or is engaging in criminal actions.
  • The parent has been deemed unfit.
  • The parent has been shown to have neglected or abused another child in their care or custody.
  • The parent held the child out of school or away from the child’s home.
  • The parent is in jail or prison and will be unable to care for the child for two years or longer.

If there is any question about whether a man is not actually the child’s biological father, your family law attorney can assist you in arranging genetic testing ordered by the court.

Benefits of Legally Adopting Your Stepchildren

legally adopting your step childPutting your time, energy, love, and financial support into creating happy lives for your stepchildren is one of the most rewarding parts of being a stepparent. However, even when they see you as a true parent, there are some critical benefits that come with completing the adoption process. These include:

Adoption Provides Crucial Legal Protections

Children may spend years with a stepparent and their biological parent, creating close family bonds. If the biological parent dies suddenly, the stepparent has no legal way to retain the children unless they are legally adopted. The other biological parent would have the right to claim custody, potentially uprooting the lives of the children.

While the court always tries to rule in the best interests of the children in such cases, having completed the legal adoption of your stepchildren ensures you won’t face this potential problem. You have a better standing in the event of a heated custody battle when the other parent has relinquished their rights.

You and Your Stepchildren Benefit Financially

When you establish legal parental rights for your stepchildren, you will be able to cover them for medical, life, and other insurance policies. You can also claim them on your taxes, and they become eligible for Social Security benefits when you pass away. Adoption also makes it easier for them to inherit from you or be named as beneficiaries in trusts.

Adoption Gives You Better Control Over Important Tasks

Some doctor’s offices will not allow a person who isn’t a legal guardian to bring children to appointments. They may be unable to share health information with you unless you are the child’s legal parent. Likewise, schools may prevent you from checking your stepchildren out early from class or signing permission slips.

When you formally adopt your stepchildren, you can be more involved in many decisions about their lives, including their education, religious upbringing, and medical care. This can make it easier on your spouse as their biological parent and help everyone feel closer. Stepparent adoption can make your family feel whole and stable.

When You Need Legal Guidance for Adopting a Stepchild, Terry & Roberts Is Here for You

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 ƒa of attorneys exclusively handles 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.

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