Stepparent Adoption in Texas

Stepparent building a sand castle with their stepchild.

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The benefits of adoption are well established, and stepparent adoption is often a natural progression that strengthens family bonds. Adoption is also a complex legal matter that requires significant commitment and effort. Adoption can deepen the relationship you have with your stepchildren, and an experienced Round Rock adoption attorney can help.

Your Relationship with Your Stepchildren

The love you have for your stepchildren is very real, and they look to you for the support and guidance of another parent. Stepparent adoption allows you to make this relationship official – affording you all the parental rights that any other parent has. The road forward, however, can be challenging, and it helps to have a better understanding of the process.

What It Means to Adopt as a Stepparent

Stepparent adoption refers to the legal process whereby a stepparent takes the legal steps necessary to become the second legal parent of their spouse’s children. While you can fill the role of your stepchildren’s other parent – caring for, nurturing, and supporting them the way other parents do – without making it official,¬†you won’t be recognized as their legal parent.

In your role as stepparent, you undoubtedly provide your stepchildren with both emotional and financial support and may have cultivated a relationship that mirrors those between biological parents and their children. Without taking the legal step of adopting your stepchildren, however, there are certain parts of their lives that you’re not legally entitled to oversee.

When a stepparent adopts their stepchildren, they formalize their relationship while ensuring legal protections in the face of unforeseen events, such as the biological parent’s death. In the process, however, the child’s other biological – or legal –¬†parent must give up their own parental rights.

Sometimes, this element of the process isn’t much more than a formality, but at other times, it is a serious sticking point that can be very difficult to overcome.

Stepparent Adoptions Are Common

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) reports that stepparent adoptions are common in the United States. In fact, in a recent year, nearly half of all private adoptions were stepparent adoptions. Many families take the additional steps necessary to ensure that these parent-child relationships are recognized by the law.

The critical distinction between stepparent adoptions and other adoptions is that stepparents have already forged a close, loving relationship with their adoptive children, which leads to a more organic process and can work to your advantage as a prospective adoptive parent.

Your Texas Adoption Attorney’s Role

Your trusted adoption attorney will help guide you seamlessly through the stepparent adoption process in a range of important ways.

Keeping You Informed

The adoption process in Texas is exacting, and your focused adoption attorney will help to ensure that your questions are answered and that you understand what’s expected of you moving forward. The better informed you are, the better prepared you’ll be to successfully navigate the path toward stepparent adoption.

Filling the Adoption Papers and Meeting All Deadlines

Adoption is a legal process, which means it involves important filings and that deadlines matter. This includes gathering the necessary documentation, accurately filling out the necessary forms, and ensuring that you remain within all the time constraints set by the law.

Securing Termination of the Other Parent’s Parental Rights

While you are filling a parental role in your stepchildren’s lives, their second parent may be more or less inclined to terminate their own parental rights. If your stepchildren’s other parent isn’t in the picture or has had their parental rights terminated, this component of your case may be a formality, but if the other parent decides to fight, it can become exceptionally challenging.

The adoption process – even for stepparent adoptions – can be long and complicated, but with skilled legal counsel in your corner, you’ll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re in good hands and that your case is moving steadily forward.

Elements of Your Case

There are several primary elements of every stepparent adoption case in Texas.

The Termination of Parental Rights

Until a parent gives up their parental rights or the court terminates them, they remain intact. This means that – even if your stepchildren’s other biological parent has very little to do with their lives or never sees the children at all – their parental rights will need to be terminated by the court.

Short of the other parent signing a document waiving their parental rights or the court terminating their legal rights, you won’t be able to proceed with a stepparent adoption.

Often, this step is accomplished by requesting that the biological parent sign an Affidavit of Relinquishment, which includes specific information about all the following:

  • The child or children involved

  • The parent’s assertion that they understand the nature of the agreement

  • A notation regarding who the children’s managing conservator will become

The document must be signed in the presence of two witnesses. Even in a situation in which a father is listed on the birth certificate but the paternity of the child is in question, you’ll need to obtain a relinquishment of parental rights from the listed father. It’s also important to note that this relinquishment ends any child support obligation that the other parent may have.

When the Other Parent Resists Terminating Their Rights

Being asked to sign away one’s parental rights can be an emotional blow – even for a parent who has virtually no interaction with their children. While your stepchildren’s other parent may have no problem allowing you to fill their parenting shoes, they may be more hesitant to sign away their parental rights, which can bog down the adoption process considerably.

Seeking the Court’s Intervention

If your stepparent adoption case is stalled by the other parent’s refusal to terminate their parental rights, you can – in certain situations – seek the court’s intervention by petitioning for an involuntary termination of rights. Common examples include:

  • If the children’s second parent abandoned them completely and expressed no intention of coming back into their lives

  • If the children’s second parent put them in danger or allowed others to endanger them

  • If the children’s second parent has been deemed unfit or qualifies as unfit

  • If the children’s second parent has abused or neglected another child in their care or custody

  • If the children’s second parent is engaged in criminal activities or is in jail or prison – with no way to care for the children for at least two years

  • If the children’s second parent kept them out of school or away from their primary home

Further, if there is any question about paternity in your case – when the second parent is the father – your focused criminal defense attorney can help you obtain genetic testing through the court that can clear the matter up.

The Home Study

If you’ve been serving as your stepchildren’s other parent for a considerable amount of time, you’ve likely forged a close bond with them that is much like any other parent’s bond with their biological children. You will, nevertheless, need to have a home study conducted before you can move forward with adoption.

The State of Texas is always guided by the best interests of the involved children, and home studies allow them to ensure that every adoption, including stepparent adoptions, supports these best interests.

The good news is that you’ve already taken on the considerable responsibility of helping to raise your stepchildren, and the state simply needs to review how things are going.

Many stepparents panic at the thought of a home study, but the professional who conducts yours won’t be looking for perfection. In fact, happy homes tend to be hectic homes. Instead, the person conducting your home study will be considering matters like the following:

  • That your home meets overall standards for safety and sanitation, which does not mean it needs to be spick-and-span

  • That your home is appropriately safety-proofed in relation to your stepchildren's ages

  • That you are emotionally fit to parent

  • That your record is clear in terms of state and federal crimes, the sex offender registry, and child abuse and child neglect charges

You will also be asked to write an autobiographical statement explaining your reasons for pursuing a stepparent adoption, provide letters of reference regarding your parenting abilities from those who know you well, and provide documentation regarding your financials and employment.

Texas courts are interested in assessing how prepared you are to adopt, how well you understand the immense responsibility involved, and your overall parenting abilities.

The Children’s Consent

If any of your stepchildren are at least 12 years old, you’ll also need their consent to proceed with an adoption. This generally means that the older children will need to sign legal documents indicating their consent to the adoption, will need to attend a court proceeding at which they’ll be questioned on the matter, or both.

This can be a tricky topic because children aren’t necessarily the best judges of what’s in their best interests, and Texas courts are well aware of this fact. It’s the parents’ responsibility to make primary decisions on behalf of their children – in support of their best interests.

As such, even if a stepchild refuses to consent to a stepparent adoption, the court can waive the requirement if it finds that doing so is to the child’s advantage. In other words, the stepparent adoption process is highly complex, and having an accomplished adoption attorney on your side is always the right choice.

The Many Benefits of Stepparent Adoption

It can be difficult to overstate the rewards of being a stepparent. The opportunity to help guide their upbringing is reward enough, but your stepparent role comes with very few legal rights. Taking the next step and adopting your stepchildren can benefit your whole family while securing your legal rights.

In the Event Your Spouse Dies

You, your spouse, and their children have forged a strong family unit, and you may be your stepchildren’s other parent in every sense of the word. If your spouse dies – you may not have any legal rights in relation to your stepchildren. Adopting your stepchildren ensures that you have the legal right to continue parenting them regardless of the circumstances.

Financial Benefits

There are several financial benefits associated with stepparent adoption, including:

  • You can cover your stepchildren on your employment-based health and dental insurance policies.

  • You can name your stepchildren as beneficiaries on financial tools and life insurance policies.

  • You can claim your stepchildren on your taxes.

  • Your stepchildren can inherit from you in accordance with the state’s laws of intestacy.

  • Your social security, veterans, and other benefits can also benefit your adopted children.

Decision-Making Authority

As a stepparent, you may not have the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of your stepchildren, to gain access to their school records, or to make primary decisions on their behalf. Adopting them, however, changes all that.

It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Round Rock Adoption Attorney

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard is a dedicated Round Rock adoption attorney who appreciates the important role your relationship with your stepchildren plays in your life. He is committed to skillfully guiding your adoption successfully forward.

Your case is important to your family, and our legal team welcomes the opportunity to help. For more information about what we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 254-781-4222 and schedule your free consultation today.

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