According to Texas law, a stepchild may be adopted in the following circumstances:
- The adoptee is an adult
- Only one biological parent is living
- The absent biological parent is willing to terminate their rights
- The absent biological parent cannot be contacted or their whereabouts are unknown
- The biological father is unknown
While it’s possible to have a loving relationship with a stepchild without going through the adoption process, there are some benefits in doing so. The child will have two active legal parents, rather than only one. They will receive a new birth certificate and have the opportunity to change their name. Adopted children also have the ability to inherit from their step-parent even in the absence of a will.
Terminating Parental Rights
The first step in the adoption process is terminating the rights of the noncustodial parent. When a parent terminates their rights, it means they lose the right to see the child, have a say in their medical care or schooling, and do not have to pay child support. They are no longer linked to the child legally.
Often, especially in the case of absent parents, there may be a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights. This is the best case scenario, as it means that once they sign the voluntary relinquishment of parental rights paperwork, the stepparent adoption can proceed. This typically leads to an uncontested adoption in which the parent who relinquished their rights will not object to or contest the adoption.
If a parent refuses to terminate their rights, Texas requires that the case go to court to decide if an involuntary termination of parental rights is warranted. This is when having an adoption lawyer is especially useful; we can make the case to the judge that the non-custodial parent does not have a relationship with the child and/or has no intention to establish one. The Texas Family Code also allows involuntary termination of parental rights in situations of neglect and/or abuse, non-payment of child support for at least one year, or incarceration for at least two years. Courts must find that termination is in the best interest of the child, and the evidence required to prove this may be substantial.
Stepparent Adoption Petition
Once the noncustodial parent’s rights have been terminated, the adoption can proceed. Stepparent adoption is not much different than any other type of adoption. It begins with filing a petition with the local family court. A social study is conducted next, which involves visiting the home, observing parent/child interactions, and evaluating finances and employment.
Assuming the social study goes well, an Amicus Attorney is appointed to help the court determine whether adoption is in the best interest of the child. The Amicus Attorney interviews parents and child, conducts another home visit, and presents their findings to the judge.
During the adoption hearing, your child will be asked to consent to the adoption if they are older than age 12. The Amicus Attorney may ask questions at this time. If the adoption is approved, the judge signs an order that finalizes it, issuing a degree that gives the stepparent custody and legal rights.
Brazoria County Stepparent Adoption Lawyers
Having an adoption attorney makes the stepparent adoption process go more smoothly. We can help you make the case to terminate the noncustodial parent’s rights and assist you with the paperwork required. Contact the experienced family law attorneys at Terry & Roberts today to learn more about what we can do for you.