You’ve always had a special relationship with your wife’s children, and this bond has grown stronger over time. (In contrast, their relationship with their biological dad is practically nonexistent.) When they started calling you “Dad”, you started thinking about your commitment to them and the possibilities of stepchild adoption.
There are several reasons why Texas stepparents would want to adopt a stepchild. They include:
- Putting your biological children and stepchildren on equal legal standing
- Guaranteeing the child’s inheritance rights
- Creating a legal parent-child relationship to allow the stepparent to continue parenting in case of death of the parent-spouse.
Once an adoption is finalized, there is no legal difference between a biological child and adopted child when it comes to making legal and medical decisions, seeking child custody or support if the marriage ends, and inheritance rights if you should die without leaving a will.
Adopting a stepchild in Texas is basically the same as a regular adoption, except that it is only allowed under certain circumstances. In very simple and broad terms, the child’s other biological parent must be:
- Deceased or
- Unknown or
- Absent or
- Indifferent (not involved in the child’s life)
Stepchild Adoption Process
As with any adoption, stepchild adoption begins when you and your spouse file a petition with your local family court. Then you and your attorney will seek a termination of parental rights from the child’s other parent, if that parent’s identity is known and that parent is still alive. If the other parent refuses to voluntarily sign an agreement terminating his rights, the matter must go to court, where a judge will decide if the adoption is in the child’s best interests. If it is, it will be allowed to proceed.
The next step is a social study of your family, which will help the judge assess your fitness to adopt your stepchildren. This includes:
- An initial screening with you, your spouse, and the children
- A home visit/ study
- Observing your interactions with the children
- Reviewing your financial situation, including employment status
Once the social study is complete, the court will appoint an Amicus Attorney, who will give the judge an overview of all the evaluations as well as their opinion on whether or not the adoption should be finalized. This information, along with the social study results, enables the court to reach a decision.
Stepchild adoption can be a time-consuming process, but the end result is well worth the effort. You are demonstrating your love and commitment by taking steps to ensure that your spouse’s children also becomes yours. For the children, adoption can provide a huge sense of emotional security because you are essentially saying to them, “I want to be your dad. I choose you.”
If you are a Texas father wanting to adopt your stepchildren and provide your family with a rewarding sense of permanence, contact Attorney Robert Von Dohlen at (713) 443-6730. Robert will use his years of experience as a family law attorney to ensure that the adoption is completed correctly so that your family bond is legal as well as emotional.