A stepparent adoption is generally considered a very good thing. It cements the family relationship and for all purposes, the relationship between stepparent and child becomes the same as if the parent was the biological parent. This means the child has the right to all benefits, including inheritance rights and inclusion in healthcare benefits offered by insurance family plans. If the parents later divorce, the former stepparent, who is now a legal parent, will have the same rights to custody and visitation as the biological parent. Hiring a stepparent adoption lawyer that is experienced with this type of case specifically is important, as there are many intricacies that can be overlooked.
Adopting step-children can be a complicated process. Certain steps must be followed and specific Texas laws complied with. It is also important for stepparents to know once the adoption is finalized, it cannot be undone. It is permanent and there is no going back.
Filing an Adoption Petition
The stepparent must file a petition in the family law court to adopt the stepchild. The stepparent must be married or formerly married to a biological parent of the child or children who he or she seeks to adopt and include this information in the petition. If the biological parent whom the stepparent hopes to replace is deceased, a certified copy of the death certificate should be included with the petition.
Termination of Parental Rights of Absent Parent
If the biological parent is living, his or her rights must be terminated before the stepparent can proceed with the adoption process. The rights may have been terminated prior to the filing of the petition. If not, a request to have them terminated may accompany the adoption petition.
If the absent parent is located and is willing to sign a document giving up parental rights, the process can continue. If the parent refuses to sign and objects to the termination, the court will evaluate the circumstances of the case and decide whether it is in the best interest of the child for the biological parent’s rights to be terminated. If the absent parent cannot be located, evidence must be presented that reasonable attempts to locate the parent have been taken.
A professional will be appointed to visit the home, interview the both the biological parent and the stepparent seeking to adopt and determine if adoption if the home is suitable for the child. The evaluator will review financial records and work history of the prospective parent. A report will be submitted to the court for consideration along with the adoption petition.
Amicus Attorney (Attorney Ad Litem)
The role of an amicus attorney, appointed by the court, is to do a more in depth evaluation than the social study. The amicus attorney is looking out for the best interest of the child and for all intensive purposes is the child’s lawyer. The attorney may interview any important person in the child’s life and conduct any relevant investigation. The amicus attorney forms an opinion of whether or not the adoption is in the best interest of the child and provides the information and the opinion to the court.
The final step is a court hearing attended by the stepparent, biological parent to whom the stepparent is married and the child or children involved. The court may ask questions of all parties including the child. Children aged 12 or over must consent to the adoption. If all goes well, the court will sign the final adoption papers at that time and the family can celebrate its new status. All family members are invited to the final hearing and to have pictures taken with the judge in honor of the new family unit.
If you are a stepparent seeking to adopt your stepchild, contact board certified family law attorney Jeff Anderson today. He has many years of experience and will be happy to answer all your questions and represent you through the process.