Step Parent Adoptions in Texas
Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental RightsA voluntary relinquishment of parental rights is performed by affidavit. It is important that the parent giving up their rights understands what that means. Any child support arrearage is not automatically forgiven, although this is a common misconception. Once the affidavit has been signed, and the waiting period for that affidavit to become irrevocable has passed, it should be filed with the court.
Petition for Adoption and TerminationThe petition is a two-part pleading for the two part process. The adoption is a separate proceeding from the termination, although they are usually handled together in stepparent adoptions. If there was a prior court of continuing, exclusive jurisdiction, the termination needs to be filed there, as a termination is a SAPCR and the court needs to have the power to hear it. If there is no prior SAPCR, no court of continuing exclusive jurisdiction, the adoption can be filed wherever venue is proper. Once the petition and affidavit of relinquishment is filed, the following documents need to be obtained and filed:
Other documents required for finalizing adoption1) CCJ certificate --obtain from the Texas BVS;
2) criminal history of adopting parent with fingerprints - requires going to the Sheriff's office for fingerprinting, obtaining an order from the Judge for the criminal history and a letter to DPS enclosing the fingerprint card and order;
3) social study - requires an order from the judge on who will complete it. Stepparent adoptions social studies are usually combined "pre & post adoptive."
After these documents are obtained and filed, a prove up hearing may be set. At the prove up, remember to bring the BVS form and certificate of adoption form.
Final Hearing/Prove UpThe final hearing is bifurcated --most courts do not want Jr. to witness the termination and the baliff will direct the child and step-parent to the waiting room until the other petitioner (biological parent married to adopting step-parent) finalizes the termination with his/her testimony. The judge then calls the kiddo and stepparent up and after routine questions, the child is officially adopted.
After the hearing, the BVS form and certificate of adoption form are given to the court clerk for signature/completion. Some counties mail this directly to Austin, which requires a filing fee (around $65), or the court clerk will mail it back to the attorney's office for mailing to Austin. After this paperwork is completed, Jr. will get a new last name! Adoptions are sealed after the final hearing, so save yourself some trouble by getting as many certified copies of the order as you anticipate that you will need.
Note to attorneys: Once the adoption is final, that court loses CEJ