Adopting your stepchild is an act of love and courage. Love for the child, love for your spouse, and love for everyone involved in the family being created. Courage in stepping out of your comfort zone to take this bold step in intentionally creating a permanent, new family.
As rewarding as the final adoption will be, the process of getting there takes a considerable amount of time and effort. Because adoption permanently affects the rights of everyone involved, adoptions must adhere to specific laws found in the Texas Family Code and the process of adoption must be handled through a court of law.
Adopting a stepchild in Texas is normally a two-step process: first, the rights of the biological father are severed by the court. Then, the court considers the adoption by the stepfather.
Texas law does not specifically require a stepfather relationship in adoptions but courts are more likely to approve a stepfather adoption than most other types of adoptions.
How the Termination Process Works: Getting Parental Rights Terminated
The process starts with a petition to the court to terminate the rights of the biological father. The biological father must be given notice and opportunity to respond and participate in the matter before the court. If the biological father cannot be located then reasonable effort must be made to make him aware of the lawsuit. The court will provide direction on what to do if the biological father cannot be located.
If the child’s father is in prison or is completely absent from the child’s life, the court is more likely to grant a termination of parental rights than if the father participates in the child’s life in a meaningful way. Courts are generally reluctant to terminate the rights of an active father – even if the father is behind on child support payments. If the child’s father wants to preserve his parental rights, you will have an increased burden in proving to the court why the father’s rights should be terminated.
The termination process is much easier if the father consents to have his rights terminated. A biological father may consent to allowing the court to terminate his rights but termination requires court approval and cannot be made unilaterally.
How the Adoption Process Works: Investigation
Texas is cautious in matters affecting children’s safety. When petitioning for a stepchild adoption you must prove that you are fit to parent the child. This part of the process will require some investigation into the stepfather’s background and the home life of everyone in the child’s household. The court will require a study of the prospective home environment – even if you and the child have been living in the same home for years. The court’s study will consider the relationship between you and the mother and the relationship between you and the child.
How the Adoption Process Works: Filing a Petition for a Stepchild Adoption
Along with the Petition to Terminate the biological father’s rights, you will need to file a petition for adoption. Once the investigation results are successfully completed and the father’s rights have been terminated, the court can consider the adoption itself. Termination and adoption are normally handled in court on the same day and the adoption hearing is usually heard immediately following the termination process.
How the Termination and Adoption Process Works: Attending Your Court Hearing
After the paperwork has been filed in the appropriate court, and all of the required documents have been filed, you will receive a court date. You and your spouse must both attend. The other parent, if they are contesting the adoption, will also be present in court. The court will likely require that the child be presented to the court. If the child in question is age 12 or older, the child must attend court to give consent for the adoption. After the judge assesses all of the evidence and speaks with all involved parties, he or she will make a decision regarding the termination of the biological father’s rights and the stepchild adoption.
Navigating the adoption process is much easier with a skilled family attorney on your side. Schedule your consultation with Von Dohlen Law now by calling 713-844-8396.