Adoption is usually an exciting time for parents but getting to the final adoption stage takes some work. There are many laws concerning the adoption of a child, including a stepchild. Because of the important role that stepparents play in children’s lives, Texas law features a statute that uniquely defines who qualifies as a stepparent and the procedures they must follow when seeking to adopt a stepchild.
An individual qualifies as a stepparent if the individual is a:
- Spouse to the child’s other parent;
- Former stepparent and has consent from another parent; or
- Former stepparent and is either a conservator or has been caring for the child for at least six months.
If an adoption petitioner is a former stepparent, the child must be at least two years old but under the age of 18.
Texas Stepparent Adoption Lawyer
If you are a step-parent preparing to adopt your child, our legal team at Horak Law is standing by, ready to help guide you through the legal process. Founder criminal defense attorney Matthew Horak is a committed advocate for parents. He is prepared to answer any of your questions.
Call Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 to schedule your first consultation. Horak Law has offices in Houston and The Woodlands, but we accept clients throughout the State of Texas including Harris County, Liberty County, Fort Bend County, Waller County, Montgomery County, Galveston County, and Brazoria County.
- Considerations For Texas Stepparent Adoptions
- Who Is Involved With Stepparent Adoptions?
- Filing An Adoption Petition And Obtaining Approval
- Additional Resources
There are several considerations that must be addressed before someone can file a petition for adoption as a stepparent. Fundamentally, any person who wishes to adopt a particular child can only do so if the child does not already have two legal parents. Parents lose their legal rights to a child upon the death or termination of parental rights of one or both parents. For example, if parents are divorced, and one remarries, the new stepparent cannot adopt the child simply because the child’s parents are divorced.
If an individual qualifies as a stepparent, and the child in question does not already have two legal parents, then the person requesting an adoption has met the foundational requirements to adopt the child. Under the law, meeting the foundational requirements for an adoption petition is called “standing.” If a child becomes available for adoption, it is possible that multiple individuals could have standing to adopt that child, including stepparents, grandparents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.
Some stepparent adoptions are relatively straightforward. In these situations, a stepparent might have been the only person to request the adoption, or the local services agency identified the stepparent as the best and only suitable placement for the child. Other times, though, stepparents can face a lengthy, uphill battle, and an adoption process can become heavily contested. This may happen if multiple individuals are interested in adopting a child or another person objects to the stepparent’s petition. In such cases, the adoption process becomes a contested adoption.
If a stepparent successfully adopts a child, that stepparent is then afforded all the rights and privileges that come with legal parenthood, including the ability to make major life decisions for the child. These include medical and educational decisions, and the obligation to help the child meet their day-to-day needs. In effect, the stepparent stops being a stepparent and is treated fully as a child’s legal parent under the law.
Many parties can be involved in an adoption case beyond a stepparent and the stepparent’s attorney, especially if a case is contested. The state protective services agency has its own attorney to represent the interests of the agency. The child will have an attorney to represent the legal interests of the child and provide legal advice. If the child is old enough, the attorney can provide direct advice. If the child is too young to understand legal advice, an attorney is still required to ensure the child’s legal interests are adequately represented.
The court will also appoint a guardian-ad-litem, an individual often affiliated with social services who represents the child’s best interests. The child’s attorney can also serve as a guardian-ad-litem. Many cases also feature an “amicus attorney,” a court-appointed attorney who provides legal guidance to the court instead of to the child. If there are multiple individuals petitioning or contesting a stepparent adoption, these individuals are likely to have their own attorneys as well.
Stepparents, like others petitioning for adoption, must file a petition with a Texas court and formally request to adopt a child. Additionally, the Department of Family and Protective Services or another qualified individual will conduct an adoption evaluation. This evaluation must be conducted by a neutral, third-party evaluator. The evaluation is a way to determine the suitability of the person or persons interested in adopting a child.
Protective Services or another assigned qualified individual can evaluate anything they think is important for the child’s wellbeing, but they are required to focus on the stepparent’s home and social environment. Under many circumstances, the evaluation can be divided into “pre-placement” and “post-placement” evaluation phases. If a post-placement evaluation is conducted, it is usually initiated after a stepparent has been caring for a child for an extended period of time.
An evaluation process can feel very intrusive, especially for a stepparent who already knows a child well. Working with a highly qualified stepparent adoption attorney can better ensure that this process is conducted as efficiently and fairly as possible.
Adoptions also require court involvement. Depending upon whether the adoption in question is contested, court involvement could involve a brief, 10-minute hearing in front of a judge, or it could involve multiple hearings and a court trial. Regardless of whether an adoption is contested, a qualified stepparent adoption attorney can provide the advocacy and support needed to build the strongest case possible.
Conservatorship of a Child – Texas Family and Protective Services provides information for individuals interested in adopting or becoming a conservator for children who are receiving protective services. Stepparents who have yet to qualify as a stepparent under the law can work towards adoption by first becoming a conservator.
FAQ for Stepparents – Texas Law Help provides stepparents introductory information for the most frequently asked questions concerning the stepparent adoption process.
Houston Stepparent Adoption Attorney | Harris County, TX
Our experienced legal staff at Horak Law understand what an emotionally tumultuous process stepparent adoptions can be. We make it our mission to help you achieve the result you want with as little conflict as possible. Founder family law attorney Matthew Horak carries over 10 years of experience in family law and is prepared to be by your side every step of the way.
To learn more about his practice and your legal options, call our office at (713) 225-8000 today. Horak Law has offices in The Woodlands and Houston, TX.