Step-Parent Adoption in Texas: A General Overview of Process and Requirements

When step-parent adoption is being considered, it is almost always a favorable situation for both the child(ren) and adults. It is a beautiful thing when there is a step-parent who is so deeply involved in a family (and devoted to the child and spouse) that they would like to become the legal parent of the child. While the process of step-parent adoption in Texas is similar to that of adoption, the process requires multiple steps and deadlines and consulting an attorney who specializes in Texas step-parent adoption process and law is strongly encouraged.

Who can file a step-parent adoption case?

An adult who is the step-parent of a child younger than 18 can file a stepparent adoption case. The child’s parent (the step-parent’s spouse) must also join together as a petitioner in the adoption case. Step-parent adoption in Texas is a lot like regular adoption in Texas however, one of the following circumstances must apply:

  • The other biological parent of the child must be considered an “absent parent”,

  • The other biological parent must be deceased,

  • The other biological parent is considered an unknown parent, or

  • The other biological parent is an indifferent parent and not involved in the child’s life.

Some additional requirements include:

  • If the child is 12 or older, they must also agree to the step-parent adoption.

  • The child must be living with the child’s step-parent and biological parent for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the Petition for Adoption.

Step-child Adoption Process in Texas

Following is the general process that a parent and step-parent must follow, with the help of an experienced Texas adoption attorney:


Filing of the Petition to Adopt: File the petition with the local court.

Termination of Parental Rights: If the other biological parent is deceased or has already had their parental rights terminated, this step is not necessary. However, if the above does not apply, this step is required. Termination of parental rights is a legal process and formal request asking the other parent to sign an agreement to terminate their parental rights so the step-parent adoption process can move forward. If the other biological parent will not agree to terminate their rights, the case will be heard by a judge who will determine if it is in the best interest of the child(ren) involved for the parental rights of the other parent to be terminated.


Completion of a Social Study: The court will appoint a social worker (or an individual or organization who meets certain requirements) whose job is to act as the court’s ‘eyes and ears’. The social worker will conduct a thorough review of your family including: visiting the home, evaluating employment and financial records, observing interactions, and performing an initial screening with the parents and children (all conducted separately). The objective is to determine whether or not the child’s needs are being met, that the step-parent has a good relationship with the child, and that the child will benefit from the step-parent adoption.

Appointment of (and review by) an Amicus Attorney: An Amicus Attorney is appointed by the court once the social study has been completed. The Amicus Attorney will conduct similar evaluations as the social worker but with an eye on the legal necessities of the child and of the adoption. The Amicus Attorney represents the child and the child's best interests. Both studies are then submitted to the court with recommendations of whether or not the step-parent adoption should be granted.


Court Hearing: A hearing in front of a judge will be scheduled. The judge will review the paperwork and recommendations submitted (from the social study and amicus attorney) and will ask questions of all parties involved, with the goal of determining whether or not the adoption is in the best interest of the child.


Once finalized, step-parent adoption in Texas is permanent and cannot be reversed by a separation or divorce, as the relationship between the child and adoptive parent is the same as if the step-parent were the biological parent of the child. Any previous orders for child support from the biological parent whose parental rights were terminated (voluntarily or involuntarily) will be terminated. A new birth certificate will be issued to the child which will list the adoptive parent and biological parent as the child’s parents. Additionally, the adoptive parent has the ability to now enroll the child in their health insurance plan through their employer as they are now the legal parent of the child. But most importantly, the effect is the creation of a cohesive family unit in which the child can thrive and grow.


Conclusion

Often, one of the trickiest aspects of step-parent adoption is helping the non-custodial, biological parent understand how the adoption is in the best interest of your child. At Martin Oostdyk, our Fort Worth adoption attorneys have the depth of experience required to help you navigate this process, and will communicate with the non-custodial parent on your behalf, while compiling a thorough, thoughtful, and compelling case to present to the court. We offer a free 15-minute consultation and would love to discuss the process with you and explore how we can help you complete your adoption process.