Stepparent Adoption
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Stepparent Adoption Lawyer In Dallas

According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1,300 new stepfamilies form across the nation every single day. Stepparents can develop very close bonds with stepchildren, even coming to consider them their own. In many situations, however, Texas law views stepparents as fundamentally different from biological parents.

The best way for stepparents to further their parental rights is through the Texas adoption process. If you live near Dallas, Texas and want to adopt your stepchild, seeking help from a Dallas stepparent adoption lawyer can be an important first step. The Law Offices of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C. can help you start the process of legal stepparent adoption and making your stepchild your own in the eyes of the law.

What Are Parental Rights in Dallas, Texas?

Unless limited by a court order, a parent who is appointed as a conservator of a child in Texas has several clear rights.

  • They can receive information from other conservators of the child regarding the best interest of the child, including their education, health, and welfare.
  • They can confer with the other parent regarding decisions concerning the child’s best interests, welfare, health, and education.
  • They may access all records of the child, including dental, medical, educational, and psychological records.
  • They can consult with healthcare professionals who care for the child.
  • They may consult with school officials regarding activities and other child welfare and educational concerns.
  • They can attend any school activities, including field trips, performances, and school lunches.
  • They can be designated as an emergency contact on all the child’s records.
  • They may consent to any treatments necessary when the child’s life, health, or safety are in immediate danger.
  • They can manage the child’s estate if it has been created by the child’s parent or their parental family.

Do Stepparents Have Parental Rights in Dallas, Texas?

Stepparents do not have the same rights as birth parents in Texas. In a divorce, for example, stepparents are not treated as parents, but as “interested third parties” by the courts. This means that while stepparents have some rights and interests regarding the child’s health and well-being, they do not have the same rights as biological parents.

The only way the rights of a biological parent can be superseded by the rights of a stepparent is if it is in the best interests of the child. If the biological parent has not voluntarily surrendered their rights or had them terminated by a court order, you will need to petition the court for a termination of parental rights. To do this, you must show compelling reasons why these rights should be terminated. The birth parent, for example, may be unable or unwilling to pay child support, be a drug or alcohol addict, commit domestic violence or otherwise place the child in danger of harm, have a criminal conviction, be impaired in some way, or abandon the child. In short, they must present a risk to the child.

If the biological parent dies, a stepparent may be able to file for conservatorship in Texas. You may still, however, not have priority over a biological parent when it comes to your parental rights.

The adoption process for stepparents can be quite complex, so it is always a good idea to have a Dallas County family law attorney in your corner. If you are confused about your parental rights, contact a Dallas adoption attorney. To get in touch with our law firm, call 214-989-7375 or fill out our online contact form for a case review today.

Reasons to Adopt Your Stepchild

There are many reasons to adopt your stepchild. They all come down to your rights as a parent and what is best for the child.

Legally Protect the Child

daughter and mother having a pinky promise

When you adopt a child, you can legally step in to protect them if something happens to your spouse (their remaining biological parent). Adopting your stepchild in this case can be a pragmatic step. Consider what happens if their remaining your spouse passes away or becomes unable to provide care for your stepchild. Adopting the child gives you full legal parental rights so that if the unthinkable does happen, you have legal rights to provide the care the child needs. Going through the adoption process cements your spouse’s involvement and consent, and allows you to feel confident knowing that the child is indeed your own, in a legal sense.

Gives You the Same Rights as a Parent in Case of Divorce

Adopting your stepchild makes you a legal parent in the eyes of the courts during a divorce. This means you will be able to fight for visitation, custody, and all of the other rights that parents have in divorce proceedings.

Positively Affects the Child

In Texas, family law is heavily focused on the best interests of the child. Beyond legally protecting them, however, if you have a truly close and loving relationship with your stepchild, legally adopting them shows that you are ready to take on that commitment. It supports your parent-child relationship and is good for the child psychologically and emotionally.

When Can a Stepparent Legally Adopt Their Stepchild in Dallas, Texas?

Several factors must be in place to legally adopt a stepchild in Texas. Your family law attorney can help you make sure that everything is in order for your adoption case to proceed.

Marriage and Residency Requirements

A child must live with the petitioner for adoption for at least six months before an adoption is granted unless the residency requirement is not in the child’s best interests. In addition, the stepparent must co-file the adoption petition with their spouse (the child’s birth parent).

Termination of Parental Rights

Only upon the termination of parental rights of the birth parent can a stepparent adopt a child. This can be accomplished by one of the birth parents voluntarily relinquishing their rights, or through the rights being taken away if the parent is unfit. In either case, only the courts can issue an order terminating parental rights.

Consent of the Child

Finally, if the child is over the age of 12, the courts may require that they consent to the adoption. The only exceptions to this are cases where the adoption is in the child’s best interests, in which case the court may waive the requirement of consent.

How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Dallas, Texas

The beginning of the adoption process in Texas depends on whether the other parent is alive or deceased.

Terminate the Parent’s Rights

If the child’s birth parent that you seek to replace as an adoptive parent is alive and no termination of parental rights exists, you must first obtain such an order. If the parent is deceased or parental rights are terminated, you may begin the process.

After the rights of at least one parent have been terminated, you may file a petition for adoption. You will need to pay a filing fee to the clerk’s office. An adoption attorney can help oversee that all the paperwork is properly completed and filed. Both the petition to terminate and the petition to adopt can be filed in the same suit.

Participate in a Hearing

Presumptive adoptive parents must undergo a court hearing to determine their suitability. This can involve a background check and a social study or home study where a representative from your local child services office will visit the home, look at your employment and financial records, and screen your interactions with the child.

When Should I Hire a Dallas, Texas Stepparent Adoption Lawyer?

Any time you engage in an adoption, whether it involves private adoptions, grandparent adoptions after parents pass away, or stepparent adoptions, you should work with a qualified and experienced Dallas, Texas adoption attorney.

Any adoption can be complicated with tricky legal hurdles to overcome, and stepparent adoption has its own unique challenges. Getting parents to terminate their rights can be a difficult and emotional process. The courts require compelling reasons to involuntarily terminate parental rights. Our law firm can help you prove to the courts that such termination is in the best interests of the child.

Protect Your Rights to Parent Today

carboard cut out of a family next to a gavel

Do you feel comfortable having your stepchild’s parent step in if something were to happen to your spouse? If not, starting the adoption process may be to your benefit. You will not only increase your parental rights but also protect the interests of your child. The Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke, P.C. has years of experience dealing with issues like these.

We have represented clients across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Denton County, Frisco, Plano, and beyond. We deeply value an honest and open attorney-client relationship and will be by your side every step of the way. Let us help you gain rights as a legal parent. Contact our offices today at 214-989-7375 or fill out our online contact form to discuss your case.

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