Have you built a strong bond with your stepchild and are interested in becoming their legal guardian? When you adopt your stepchild, they gain the same access as a biological child would have to inheritance and various benefits. As their legal parent, you then have the same rights and responsibilities as their biological parent too.
If you consider adopting your stepchild, you should consult an experienced family law attorney to discuss the process and prepare your petition. They can help you navigate the legal requirements, which can vary depending on the child’s other biological parent beside your spouse.
When Can You Consider Stepchild Adoption?
No matter your circumstances, the stepchild you seek to adopt must be younger than 18 years old and you must be married to their biological parent. Your spouse must be a joint petitioner in the process to support your request.
If your spouse is the only biological parent with parental rights, you can more readily petition to adopt your stepchild. If the other biological parent still has parental rights, you will need to request their termination as part of the process.
A judge can terminate a parent’s rights on bases such as:
- Substance abuse disorder
- Criminal activity including sexual offenses
- Domestic abuse
- Lack of visitation or child support payments
If you are unsure on which grounds you can request the termination of the other biological parent’s rights, you should speak with a lawyer who has experience in stepchild adoption.
Does My Stepchild Need to Consent?
Texas Family Code mandates the child’s consent in specific situations. If your stepchild is at least 12 years old, they must give their consent for the adoption in writing or during a court hearing. If your adoption affects their last name, a child who is 10 years or older must provide consent in written form.
The Stepchild Adoption Process in Texas
You and your spouse can file your stepchild adoption petition with either a district court or a statutory county court that has jurisdiction over family law cases. You need to file an Original Petition for Adoption in all situations.
If the child’s other biological parent is deceased, you need to provide a copy of the death certificate, or if their parental rights are already terminated, you must submit a copy of the court order. If the other biological parent still has their parental rights, you must include an Original Petition for Termination in addition to your adoption request.
Once the other biological parent had their rights terminated if it was not already the case, the court will assign a social worker to you and your spouse. This professional conducts a thorough evaluation of your household that includes interviews and a review of your finances. The results of the social case study play an important role in the court’s decision-making process.
Several court hearings can happen during the stepchild adoption process, during which the judge can ask specific questions to either or both of the biological parents, the stepparent, and the child, to get a detailed picture of the family dynamics and the validity of the adoption application. During the final court hearing, you can expect the judge to sign the court order that legally binds the new family unit.
Contested Vs Uncontested Stepchild Adoption
If you need to file a request to terminate the parental rights of your stepchild’s other biological parent, you can face a contested or uncontested adoption. If the other biological parent agrees to give up their rights and signs the termination documents, you can proceed with the following adoption steps right away.
If the other biological parent objects to the termination of their parental rights, an additional court hearing can happen for the judge to evaluate the situation. A Texas judge always prioritizes the child’s best interests when issuing a ruling that affects them. Once the judge has terminated the other biological parent’s rights, you may move forward with the rest of the adoption process.
In the event that you are unable to locate your stepchild’s other biological parent, you need to present acceptable evidence that you tried to do so.
Choose Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C. to Assist You with Your Stepchild Adoption
At Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., we are dedicated to helping you and your family at every step of the stepchild adoption process. We can review your situation when you and your spouse are first considering this legal solution. Our team can provide recommendations tailored to your specific needs. We can assist you no matter how simple or complex your case is. We have extensive family law experience both in the courtroom and outside of it. Our staff is committed to protecting your and your family’s rights and future.
Are you interested in adopting your stepchild in Houston or its surrounding areas, and need a trusted family law attorney to assist you? Contact Cynthia Tracy, Attorney at Law, P.C., today at (281) 612-5443 to schedule a consultation!