More children live with a stepparent than you might think. Census data from 2022 shows that there are more than 2.3 million children living with a stepparent throughout the country. The relationship between children and their stepparent can be just as loving and nurturing as what they share with their biological parent, but the rights of a stepparent are severely limited in comparison.
Fortunately, you can extend your rights as a stepparent by legally adopting your spouse’s child. The stepparent adoption process in Texas can be difficult and complicated, but a Texas adoption lawyer can help you fight for the family you have chosen. Get in touch with the Law Office of Chris Schmiedeke to take the first steps toward fighting through the legal process for your family.
Arguably the most impactful benefit of adopting your stepchild is having parental rights and security. For example, if your spouse passes away, you, as a stepparent, would have fewer legal rights to the child than their surviving birth parent, even if they have no relationship with the child whatsoever. By adopting, you are recognized as the child’s legal parent, even as a stepparent.
The administrative benefits of adopting are substantial. When you have legal parental rights over a child, your health insurance could cover them, whereas many employers do not offer health coverage that includes stepchildren. Additionally, you can make sure that your stepchild is an inheritor of your estate in the event that you pass away if there is no will in place. Plus, adoption can provide a sense of belonging for the child.
In Texas, three basic requirements must be met before you can finalize adoption as a stepparent. First, you must be married to one of the child’s legal parents. In Texas specifically, you must also live with the child for at least six months before you can make the motion to adopt them. Care and support for the child must have been provided for this six-month period, and you must have evidence to show for it.
The second requirement for adoption is getting the permission of both legal parents. In accordance with Texas family law, a child can have no more than two legal parents. That means if the child’s other parent, who is not your partner, still has legal parental rights, they must give those up. Sometimes, they may not want to, so it is best to get a Texas family law attorney‘s help before proceeding. The other parent’s permission may not be required in situations where they are unfit to parent, have not supported the child , have committed child abuse, or are incarcerated for certain crimes.
The third and final requirement is the consent of the child. Note that this requirement only applies if the child is at least 12 years of age. This is not necessarily set in stone, however, as a child may be adopted against their wishes if the court rules it to be in their best interest.
Yes, your stepchild must live with you and your spouse for a period of no less than six months before you can move toward legal adoption. During this time, you must have demonstrated care for the child, and the child must have formed a bond with you as their new parent.
To file for stepparent adoption, you will need to complete several steps. While the general steps are straightforward, making sure each is done correctly is easiest with a Texas adoption lawyer by your side.
You will need a Petition to Terminate and for Stepparent Adoption. Depending on the grounds for your adoption, there may be additional documents needed, but the original petition for adoption is always going to be necessary.
You may need an affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights. This document is signed by the party terminating their rights and states that they give up all their rights to the child or children in question. A death certificate may also be relevant when a stepparent is adopting a child whose biological parent has died.
You must also obtain the consent of the child to adopt them if they are at least 12 years of age. Extenuating circumstances could eliminate this part of the process, and you may also ignore this part of the process if the child is younger than 12.
Another requirement of an adoption is the completion of a home study. This is typically completed by a social worker and involves a visit to the adopting parent’s home to review the suitability for the adoption. The social worker then makes a report to the Court on their recommendation for the adoption.
An ad-litem or amicus attorney will typically be required to complete an adoption. This is an attorney who represents the interests of the child. Essentially, the child has an attorney. They also investigate the adoption and will make a recommendation to the Court. In some cases, the court can waive this requirement.
The adopting parent, the stepparent, will be required to complete a criminal background check. Again, this is used to determine the suitability of the person adopting. If there is a criminal background, it could affect the adoption.
Once the adoption is complete, the stepparent is the parent of the child, just as if the child had been born to them. That means that in the event of a subsequent divorce, that parent could be ordered to pay child support and have other obligations and duties just like any other parent.
It is important to note that you cannot “give up” the adoption. In order to end the adoption, you would have to terminate the parental rights, just as was done in the original adoption.
You will need to get a final order from the court to complete the adoption and officially become a legal parent of your stepchild. This is known as the Decree of Adoption.
To get a new birth certificate with updated legal parent information, you must submit a certificate of adoption form and the Decree of Adoption. A Texas family law attorney can help you fill out all the forms correctly.
A stepparent adoption court hearing may be waived, but that is not always the case. If you have to attend a stepparent adoption hearing, it is helpful to know what to expect in advance. During the hearing, you will be asked a series of questions by a judge or a magistrate. If your child is at least 12 years of age, they will also need to be present to give their consent in most cases. Once the hearing is completed, you will get a date on which the adoption will be finalized.
Yes, you do not necessarily need the consent of the other biological parent for a stepparent adoption to proceed. What you really need is a termination of the other biological parent’s parental rights. This can be done by the court without consent from the biological parent, but you will need to demonstrate that it is in the best interests of the child. Plus, statutory grounds are necessary, such as failure to provide support, child abandonment, or incarceration.
In the absence of obvious statutory grounds, combatting a non-consenting biological parent may be difficult. Having an experienced Dallas, Texas adoption attorney by your side is key in helping you fight for your family.
If the biological father is unknown or uninvolved, the adoption process does change slightly. In the case of an unknown father, the court will need to terminate the possible birth father’s rights should the birth father ever be discovered. Still, Texas only assumes biological parent’s rights for a man if he is either married to the child’s mother or has his name on the child’s birth certificate.
If the father is known but uninvolved in the child’s life, they will likely consent to an adoption if they are able to be contacted. Under Texas law, however, the man must assert paternity if he is not married to the mother. That will register him in the Putative Father Registry. Without this step, he may not even be informed of adoption proceedings. A court order will terminate parental rights if the father cannot be found or does not respond to inquiry.
A step-parent adoption will typically take around six months to a year to complete, depending on the speed of the home study. The home study is typically the longest process of the adoption.
Stepchild adoption can be denied for a variety of reasons. First, you must be a legal adult in the state of Texas to adopt any child, but that likely will not be a problem in your situation. More serious obstacles can include having a criminal history. While this does not necessarily bar you from adoption, especially in cases of nonviolent offenses or misdemeanors, criminal history will still be evaluated.
You may be denied adoption if you have medical or financial obstacles to fulfilling your duties as a parent. Chronic health conditions generally are not a problem, but life-threatening illnesses could disqualify you. You also need to be financially stable. As a disclaimer, this does not necessarily mean being wealthy or even debt-free. You just need to have financial stability. Remember that if you are denied an adoption, you are free to file an appeal.
Yes, a stepparent can adopt a child even if they have already turned 18 and become a legal adult. The benefits are still present, including inheritance rights and being considered family in legal and medical matters. In fact, these situations tend to be easier because someone who is at least 18 years of age can give reliable informed consent to the adoption, and it does not require the termination of parental rights from the other biological parent.
You can expect prices anywhere from a few thousand dollars up to ten thousand or more. Plus, courts have filing fees that you must pay, though the exact value of these fees will vary based on the county.
When it comes to fighting for your family, you need a Texas adoption lawyer who is reliable, communicative, and experienced. Look for a law firm that has extensive experience in adoption law with a history of adoption cases. They should also be informative and friendly, discussing transparent costs that allow you to plan ahead.
At the Chris Schmiedeke law firm, our Dallas adoption attorneys have developed a streamlined approach with checklists and templates to speed up the process. When you are ready to step up for your stepchild, give us a call at 214-989-7375 or fill out our online contact form to take the first steps toward making your chosen family official.
I was born in Dallas and spent the majority of my life here. I moved to Denver in the middle of the first grade and moved back to Plano in the middle of the eleventh grade. I graduated from Plano Senior High in 1984 and then attended Richland College and the University of North Texas where a received a Bachelor of Business Administration. From there I attended the Texas Tech University School of Law and was licensed to practice law in May of 1993.