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The Basics of Stepparent Adoption in Texas


Stepparent adoption cases are not exactly the most common type of cases a family law attorney encounters. When it does happen, the other parent of the child is usually deceased or at least not actively involved with the child. This is usually the part of the case which is conflicted. The thing is, in order for a stepparent to legally adopt a child, the parental rights of the other parent should be terminated first. Some families are not too happy with this fact.

In case you are a stepparent who is interested in starting the process of a stepparent adoption, you need a lot of information to help you through the tough parts. You might even need the assistance of an expert family lawyer.

In family law, there are always steps to follow – just like in any aspect of the legal system. You will really need to complete each step and requirement if you want to have a successful adoption later on. There are also issues that are better off foreseen so load yourself up with information as early as possible to avoid facing difficulties later on your stepparent adoption case.

Stepparents Gaining Rights and Duties

Parental rights can be awarded by the court to a stepparent through an adoption.  As a stepparent, you can have the chance to act as a parent to your stepchild even if you are biologically unrelated. It is quite natural for a stepparent to want to have the right to make decisions for the child and to have the typical parental rights and duties of a child that he or she is already treating as his or her own.

Stepparent adoptions are just like any normal adoption. However, it has particular requirements. These requirements include either having a deceased other parent or absentee parent. You might want to step in and fill the ‘position’ if the child’s other parent is deceased. If the other parent does not care about the child or does not keep any parental interest towards the child, you can petition the court to terminate the parental rights of the other parent.

The other special requirement is that you should be married to the other parent – the one who gets to keep parental rights. In fact, it is required that you do petitions for stepparent adoption together.

Stepparent Adoption Cases – How It Goes

It is also important to know the different steps you need to follow in order to adopt a stepchild. Just like traditional adoption cases, you will need to complete and submit a petition so that your case will be assigned to a family law judge in your county. You can do that on your own, but you can also hire a lawyer experienced in family law to guide you properly through all the steps. You can save time and money and you can look forward to the stepparent adoption getting finalized without any issues.

The toughest part is probably getting the other parent to agree to give up his or her rights to the child. If your attempt to settle the matter quietly fails, you will have to take it to the court, wherein the judge will make a decision according to the child’s best interest. In court, the parental rights of the absentee parent will be terminated and your adoption case will be discussed. In Texas, both the petition to terminate parental rights and petition for stepparent adoption can be dealt with at the same time at the same court or hearing.

Before Parental Rights are Awarded

There will be a home study conducted by a licensed social worker to determine whether it is really in the best interest of your stepchild to continue on with the adoption. This means that the social worker assigned to your case will visit your home and evaluate the living conditions you will subject the child to. They will check out the environment that the child will be permanently exposed to, should the court approve the adoption. You will be interviewed, and your spouse, who happens to be the other parent of the child will be interviewed as well.

There will also be an amicus attorney that will be appointed by the court in order to help determine the final decision for your stepparent adoption case. The amicus attorney will also evaluate you and would make recommendations to the judge after his or her evaluation.

If you meet all of the requirements and the evaluation results are all in your favor you will eventually be given the parental rights and duties for your stepchild.

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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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