From book reports to baseball practice, you want to be involved in your stepkid’s life. You want to parent the child you are helping to raise, but can you legally be their parent if you simply married into the family? Can you adopt your spouse’s biological child?
If you are married to the mother or father of the child, you can file a stepparent adoption with the biological parent (as a petitioner) in the adoption case. If the child’s other parent has passed away, or if his or her parental rights have been terminated, the case is appropriate for a stepparent adoption. However, if the other parent is not deceased and there is no court order terminating that parent’s rights, you must first file a petition to terminate the parental rights, along with the petition to adopt.
An adoption evaluation—often called a social study—will occur. A social worker will visit the home you, your spouse and your spouse’s child share, and will conduct interviews. If the child can speak, he or she will be asked questions as well. A criminal history report will be run on both you and your spouse, and an attorney for the child (attorney ad litem) is usually appointed. In Texas, an attorney for the child can be waived if the court finds good cause, but typically the attorney would conduct an investigation regarding whether or not the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
A court hearing is required even if all parties—including the other biological parent—agree to the termination of parental rights and the adoption. Both you and your spouse must appear in court, along with the child to be adopted (if the child is over 12 years old). If the child is over 12 years old, he or she must also consent to the adoption and sign a form to the effect.
Since adoption day is usually a happy occasion, many people choose to bring their child to court—and even take pictures with the judge—to celebrate the official, legal start of a stepparent’s journey into parenthood.
Still have questions about the adoption process? Hoppes and Cutrer has answers. Call our office at 817-283-3999 to schedule a consultation.