Adopting a stepchild is a unique circumstance, one that can be positive in many ways. Whether a parent is deceased, absent, or facing a divorce situation where obtaining parental rights is possible, there is no better way to bring a new family closer together than with legal stepparent adoption. In Texas, this requires that certain procedures must be followed, so the assistance of experienced adoption attorneys who are familiar with stepparent adoption is a wise step to take for the adopting family.
What Is Stepparent Adoption?
Stepparent adoption is when the spouse of a parent petitions the court to obtain legal parental rights of their spouse’s child/children through the adoption process. Attorneys who regularly handle adoption state that this process is basically the same as a regular adoption, with the exception that it is permissible only under certain circumstances.
To adopt a stepchild, one of the following circumstances must apply: absent parent, deceased parent, unknown parent, or indifferent parent not involved in the child’s life. The child must be in the custody of the parent to whom the petitioning stepparent is now married. If these conditions are applicable, it is possible to petition for a stepparent adoption.
Stepchild Adoption Process in Texas
Following is the process that a parent and stepparent must follow with the help of qualified adoption attorneys:
Petition Filing – As with any adoption process, stepparent adoption begins with filing a petition to adopt with the local family court. This is generally done through the guidance of capable adoption attorneys who can assist the parties through the entire process.
Termination of Parental Rights – Once an adoption request has been filed, the adoption attorney can move on to the next step that involves obtaining a termination of parental rights from the absent parent, if one is known and alive. It is a formal request asking that other parent to sign an agreement to terminate their parental rights so the stepparent adoption can be done. If the absent parent refuses, the case moves to the court. There a judge will determine if it is in the best interest of the children involved for the parental rights of the other parent to be terminated.
Social Study – If the above action is determined to be in the best interest of the children, the petition can progress to the next step. It involves a social study of the prospective family that includes: visiting the home; evaluation of employment and financial records; observations, and and an initial screening with the parents and children. All of this is used to help judge the situation and determine the fitness of a stepparent to adopt stepchildren.
Amicus Attorney – After the social study, an Amicus Attorney is appointed. The role of the Amicus Attorney is to serve as a non-biased lawyer appointed by the court who will repeat some of the previous evaluations, especially interviews and observations, to determine if the specific situation is best for the individual child or children and the family. Their opinion, along with the results of the social study, is then presented to the court with a recommendation of whether or not to allow the adoption to be finalized.
It is typically a favorable situation when a stepparent is so devoted to the child or children of their spouse that they wish to become their legal parent. Although the court carefully and thoroughly reviews stepchild adoption petitions, dedicated adoption attorneys can help a petitioning stepparent prepare for these procedures . The process can be time-consuming and costly, the end result of a complete family unit is well worth the effort!