Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have recently married a woman in Texas. She has three children by her first husband. I am wondering if I can adopt my step children, and if so, what legal steps do I need to take?”
Adopting step children allows the step parent to obtain the legal parental rights of their spouse’s children through the adoption process. Although the process is similar to a typical adoption, there are a few differences in which you must be aware.
First, the parental rights of the birth parent must be terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, which can occur if the parent is absent, deceased, not known, or not involved in the child’s life.
Steps to adopt a step child in Texas
Due to the complexity of each state’s adoption laws, steps which might vary from state to state, it is generally a good idea to consult with a family law attorney familiar with the laws in your state before proceeding with an adoption. Below we discuss the general steps to adopt a step child in Texas.
- File a petition
Like any adoption, if you wish to adopt your new spouse’s children you will need to file a petition in the appropriate family court. Although this can be done without legal help, it is generally best to talk to a lawyer.
- Terminate the rights of the biological parent
A step child adoption cannot be completed in Texas without terminating the rights of the biological parent. As mentioned above, this can be done voluntarily- which means the biological parent consents to the termination of their rights – or involuntarily- which means the court will decide if the biological parent’s rights should be terminated.
- Home study
As with any adoption, the state will have some type of process to ensure that the child’s best interests are served with the step parent adoption. Evaluations can include a home study, evaluation of the financial status of the family, and interviews with all concerned parties.
At the completion of the social study for the step parent adoption, the court will appoint an amicus attorney. This attorney’s job is to review information provided in the home study and provide their findings to the court. The Amicus lawyer is considered an “unbiased” lawyer, not representing any party in the process. Their job is to determine whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
Can my step parent adoption be terminated?
Before deciding whether or not to adopt another person’s child it’s important to understand the commitment you are making. First and foremost the commitment is to the child. In fact, courts are unlikely to grant a termination of your parent rights simply because you decide to divorce the mother.
Under Texas law, the state generally considers the step parent who has adopted the step children to be a permanent parent. In fact, most judges will ensure adoptive parents understand that they are becoming that child’s parent permanently and that their rights and duties associated with the role of parent are not generally terminated.
With this in mind, it may be possible to have your rights terminated (i.e., the mother marries another man who wants to adopt the children and the court agrees to terminate your rights), but there are no guarantees.
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