In Texas, an adult who is the stepparent of a child may file for adoption. This post will answer some common questions that arise when a person is considering initiating a stepparent adoption.
Who Can File and Where?
In Texas, an adult who is the stepparent of a child may file for adoption. When filing for stepparent adoption, you must include your spouse in the petition. The petition for adoption must be filed in the county where the child is residing or where the petitioners reside. (The parties who file the petition and are requesting the adoption are referred to as the petitioners.)
How Do I Start a Stepparent Adoption?
There are two types of stepparent adoptions, and it is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to help you navigate the process in either case. The type of stepparent adoption will have a large impact on the process you will need to go through to adopt your stepchild. These two types are as follows:
- The child’s other parent is alive and there is no court order terminating the parental rights of that parent to the child. In this instance, you will need to file an Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Adoption. Depending on whether or not the biological parent is willing to voluntarily relinquish parental rights, these types of cases can be simple or much more difficult.
- The child’s other parent is no longer living or there is a court order terminating the parent’s parental rights to that child. In this case, you will only need to file an Original Petition for Adoption. These cases are generally quick and easy because you do not have to deal with the termination component.
It is vital that you file the proper documents in order to have your stepparent adoption approved by the court. As you can see, the other parent must either be no longer living or must have his/her parental rights terminated before you can proceed with adopting the child.
What Other Steps are Involved?
In order to complete a stepparent adoption, the stepparent must complete a background check. That process is cheap and easy. You simply make an appointment at one of the approved locations, have your electronic fingerprints taken for the background check, and have the results sent to your attorney. The petitioners must also complete an adoption home study with someone who is qualified to conduct home studies. The evaluator will file a report with the court indicating whether or not he recommends approving the adoption.
Will We Need to Appear in Court?
Yes. Both petitioners must appear in court (whether personally or by zoom, if required due to COVID-19 or if allowed by the court). If the child that is to be adopted is 12 years of age or older, the child must also attend the adoption hearing. (Usually, because adoptions are such a joyous occasion, the child attends no matter the age.) There is an exception if you are able to show it would be unduly difficult for one of the joint petitioners to attend the hearing. In that case, the court may waive the requirement for both petitioners to be present. Additionally, the court may also waive the requirement for the child to attend, if waiving the requirement would be in the best interest of the child.
Does My Stepchild Have to Consent to the Adoption?
If the child who is to be adopted is 12 years of age or older, the child must consent to the adoption. The child’s consent can be given in court at the adoption hearing. If the child is not attending the adoption hearing, the child can provide consent in writing.
Must My Stepchild Live with Me Before I Adopt?
Yes. The law provides that a child must live with the adopting petitioner for at least six (6) months before the court may grant an adoption. This requirement can be waived if the petitioners show that the requirement is not in the best interest of the child.
Navigating a stepparent adoption can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, and there are a number of hiccups that may arise during the process. To help ensure your stepparent adoption goes as smoothly as possible, contact a family law attorney to assist you with the process. The attorneys at The Draper Law Firm are ready to assist you in the adoption process.
Blog post by Sarah Marrone