As a stepparent, you are often indiscernible from a biological parent. You pick them up at school, listen to them when they have a fight with a friend, and eat dinner together. You buy them clothes, tuck them in at night, and brush their hair. Despite all the parental love you share with them, you have no legal rights even if their other biological parent is no longer in the picture.
The good news is that Texas Family Code does offer a pathway for a stepparent to adopt their stepchildren. Here's what you need to know.
The Stepparent Adoption Process in Texas
Texas only allows for two people to be legal parents of a child. If a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild, then either the other biological parent must no longer be living or he or she must be willing to give up their parental rights.
If you are wishing to adopt a stepchild, the process begins in one of two ways:
- Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and Stepparent Adoption: This step is used when the child’s other parent is alive and there is no existing court order of termination of parental rights. The two actions can be filed together as one case.
- Original Petition for Adoption: This is the first step if the other parent is deceased or there is already a court order of termination of parental rights.
The other biological parent has the right to contest the termination. In these cases, a judge will decide whether the parent should retain their rights. If the parent agrees to terminate their rights, they will sign an Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. In addition to the stepparent, their spouse (one of the child’s biological parents) is a co-petitioner in the adoption.
The court may order an evaluation of each party requesting the termination and/or the adoption. An FBI criminal background check is conducted on the stepparent, who will also have to participate in a home study.
These evaluations and checks are required even if the child has been living under the same roof as the stepparent for some time. The state must confirm that the stepparent is physically, emotionally, and financially prepared to care for the child. A child who is 12 years old or older must consent to the adoption.
Rights Given in Stepparent Adoption
A stepparent who formally adopts their stepchild is given the same rights as a biological parent. The child also receives the same rights as a biological child.
Stepparent adoption provides for the following:
- Make the child the son or daughter of the stepparent
- The stepparent assumes all the obligations of a biological parent
- The stepparent has visitation rights in a divorce
- Ends any child support obligation of the terminated parent
- Allows for the child to change their last name if desired
- The child has the same inheritance rights and other benefits as a biological child
- Allows the parents to get a new birth certificate
Stepparent adoption can be a stabilizing, positive event in a child’s life.
Legal Counsel to Guide Stepparent Adoption
Adoption is an exciting time for both the parent and the child. Knowing your relationship is legally recognized in the state gives the family a stronger sense of connection. Yet adoption is not to be undertaken without thorough thought and consideration.
If you are thinking about adopting your stepchildren, schedule a consultation with us. The Springer Law Firm has been helping families in the Katy area for decades. Not only do we have extensive understanding and background in stepparent adoption in Texas, but we also make the family and their goals our priority in any legal matter.