LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Angelina Maria Monte Zinn | Jul 16, 2011

The Process of a Texas Stepchild Adoption

Generally: The Process of a Texas Stepchild Adoption

Adopting a child is a beautiful time in the life of a family, but it's also very complicated and takes specific steps to ensure it is legally binding in the future. If you or your partner are considering adopting, you will need an attorney qualified to assist you with the complex legal aspects of the process. With specific steps that must be taken, the process can be longer than expected, but worth the wait!

Where Do You Start

To begin a Texas Stepchild Adoption, one must file a petition with the Court. Under the Texas Family Code Section 162.001(b)(1), a Texas Adoption of a Stepchild petition joins two causes of action: (1) the termination of the natural parent and (2) adoption by the remaining parent's spouse.

When Can You File the Petition

A petition for the termination of parental rights can begin before a child is born, but it is unlikely to be granted until a child is at least five days old. On the other hand, a child can be older too. Many Steparent Adoptions are done when the Child is 5, 10, or even 15 years old.

Termination Required

After filing the petition, the next step in stepparent adoptions is terminating the parental rights of the biological father or mother. A stepparent adoption requires one termination of one parent, rather than both as in grandparent adoptions. This process requires the voluntary signing over of parental rights or, if necessary, court intervention to terminate a parent’s rights. When a parent cannot be located, notification through the newspaper may be possible. The termination of parental rights, unless agreed, can be a contentious issue since upon completion it is complete, final, and irrevocable.

Social Study Prepared

Social Study must be prepared in a Texas Steparent Adoption. In a Social Study, a "social study evaluator" evaluates the circumstances and conditions of the child(ren). If you are the biological parent/petitioner in a Texas Steparent Adoption, the evaluation of the biological parent may be limited, depending on the circumstances. If that's the case, the evaluator may state whether the biological parent/petitioner appears suitable for conservatorship.

What Is Included In the Social Study

The social study includes things like the child(ren), father, mother and stepfather's name, date of birth, who/where their parents are, any criminal history, how each gets along with the child, the child's developement, etc. Under the Texas Family Code, the social study evaluator must conduct interviews, observations, evaluations of home environments, contact with collateral sources, and again the child(ren) relationship with each person seeking possession or access. In Texas, it will also include the financial standing of the biological parent and the steparent. Please keep in mind that the cost of the social study, is usually, if not always, paid by Petitioners.

Amicus Attorney Appointed

An Amicus Attorney will also be appointed as a friend of the Court to determine what is in the best interest of the child. In many ways, an Amicus Attorney is similar to social study evaluator but goes into much more depth of the child, parties, and other person(s) of interest. An Amicus Attorney interviews the parents, other person(s) involved in the Child's life, visits the home, etc. Please keep in mind that the costs of the Amicus Attorney will usually, if not always, be paid by the Petitioners.

When Does An Amicus Attorney Come In

As an Amicus Attorney myself, I usually begin my duties after I receive the social study. I found that the mother and husband are often nervous in these situations. As long as you have a happy, loving home, there is absolutely nothing to be worried about. In fact, as a petitioner in a Texas Steparent Adoption, I would be very open, honest, give clear answers to any questions, etc. so that the process runs smoothly.

Conclusion

While it can be expensive and time-consuming, its all worth it! While this is only my opinion, and not legal advice, I would seek an attorney to assist you through the process.

Additional resources provided by the author

Contact the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, P.O. Box 149030, Mail Code, E558 Austin, TX 78714-9030, (512) 438-3127, for information on Texas state adoptions, (512) 438-3412; private adoption agencies, (512) 438-3251; the adoption resource exchange and photo listing, (512) 438-3357; and post-adoption services, (512) 438-3302.

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