How Does Stepparent Adoption Work in Texas?
Being a stepparent is not always easy, but loving another’s child as your own is one of the most rewarding experiences possible. Choosing to adopt your stepchild is a big step in any family. It is also a difficult road that could have its fair share of bumps. Having a licensed and experienced adoption attorney on your side can help you navigate the ins and outs of adoption laws in Texas.
Your Adoption Attorney Can Explain General Adoption Requirements
Although a stepparent adoption is often more detailed and involved than a standard adoption process, the petitioners of the adoption (the stepparent and spouse) must still go through and meet the adoption requirements as dictated by Texas law.
First, courts will require an adoption evaluation. Many courts have a list of people qualified to perform this adoption evaluation and will not accept evaluation results from third parties. Always check with your district’s court to make sure your evaluation is done properly.
Next, the judge will usually require the following documents and forms:
- Criminal history reports of the petitioners
- Signed and verified affidavit concerning the compliance of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (may not apply to all cases)
- CPS Central Registry Check
- Child Custody Evaluation report
- Certificate from the Texas Paternity Registry claiming no other man has claimed paternity of the child
In order for you to adopt your stepchild, you must meed certain eligibility requirements.
The most important factor for eligibility is the parent-child relationship between your stepchild and their other parent (to whom you are not married). In order to adopt a child, either their other parent must be deceased, or there must already be a court order of termination of parental rights. If either of these applies, you can file an Original Petition for Adoption with the court.
If the child’s other parent is still alive and there is no current court order of termination of parental rights, you’ll have to file an Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Stepparent Adoption. You can file both of these at the same time and process both of them in the same court hearing.
Child Consent, Living Situation, and Fees
For approval of either adoption process, there are also some additional factors the court will consider. If the child is over the age of 12, they will have to sign a consent for the adoption. They will also have to sign a consent if they are over the age of 10 and the adoption will legally change their name. Texas law also states that the child must live with the petitioner for at least six months prior to the adoption. The district court will also require a filing fee. You can have this waived with a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs.
What a Stepparent Adoption Case Changes
A successful stepparent adoption has the ability to:
- Terminate the parent-child relationship or other court-ordered relationship between the child and their other parent(s)
- Make the adopted child the legal son or daughter of the stepparent
- Appoint the stepparent and spouse managing conservators of the child
- End all child support obligations of the terminated parent (any child support arrears must still be paid)
- Allow the child to inherit from the stepparent
- Cut off the adopted child’s right to inherit from their other parent (as decided by the court and the other parent)
- Change the adopted child’s name as requested
- Allow the parents to order a new birth certificate by filing a Certificate of Adoption form
It’s important to note that certain outcomes are variable based on the desires of both the child and all parents involved. As such, a child can be adopted but maintain their original name and inheritance rights.
Court Appearances for Adoption and Your Adoption Attorney
You, your spouse, and your stepchild (over the age of 12) will need to appear in court. This is even if there is no need for a termination petition. The judge overseeing the adoption case will need to go over all forms and documents. They will also ensure that the adoption is in the child’s best interests. You’ll likely only need to appear one or two times, depending on the situation with the child’s other parent.
If you’re considering adopting your stepchild, then call the Hager Law Firm at (903) 466-0001. Sarina Hager has spent the last 12 years practicing law in Tyler, Texas and the surrounding areas and is a qualified and experienced adoption and family attorney. She always puts the interests of your children first. She will work hard to help you navigate the tricky terrain of family law. Don’t wait another day to make your family feel whole.