In Texas a step parent, someone who is married to a biological parent of a child, can petition to adopt the child. The other parent's parental rights must be voluntarily relinquished or involuntarily terminated by the court before the adoption can take place.
What is the process?
The petition for termination of parental rights and for step parent adoption can be filed together.
What about the ad litem and social study?
The Court will require a social study - either by an individual who meets certain requirements or by a county organization. This is to make sure that the home is a good place for the child, that the child fits in and will have his or her needs met. The attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the chld and make sure the adoption is in the best interest of the child. Both the ad litem and the social study will be billed to the adopting parent.
The adopting parent will need to get a fingerprint-based background check through the Department of Public Safety and file it with the Court.
If all is going smoothly and the other parent relinquished rights, this is a time for the judge to make sure all the documents are in the file and that all the requirements have been met.
And if we need involuntary termination?
It is pretty hard to terminate a parent's parental rights involuntarily. There are specific grounds that can be used, but they do not include just not liking each other any more.
The first part of the hearing will be the termination of the other parent's rights. The child is usually required to wait outside during this, and then come in for the second part, the adoption. Your attorney and the ad litem will ask questions of the parent and adopting parent, and maybe of the child. This will put evidence on the record that all the legal requirements have been met. Many judges will allow the parents and child to take pictures with him or her immediately after the adoption is rendered.
Do I really need a lawyer for this?
Step parent adoption is a highly techincal process. Many lawyers get caught on the details and local rules if they don't do it often. It is not a good area for do-it-yourself law.
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