Stepparent adoptions are much more simpler than international adoptions or just normal domestic adoptions. However, it may still be prudent to contact an attorney to help you through the process. This is because each and every case is different. The following are basic steps of stepparent adoptions in Texas (though the steps may vary depending on your situation):
1. First things first: Termination
If the biological mother/father is alive (non-spouse of stepparent), parental rights must be terminated before adoption process can begin. The termination and adoption can be done in a joint petition; however, this can be a strategic decision (something that an attorney can help you with). Terminations can be voluntary or involuntary.
a. Voluntary Termination
The biological mother/father agrees to voluntarily terminate their parental rights, they must sign an Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights that is in accordance with the Texas Family Code Section 161.103. Two witnesses must sign the document with the mother/father in front of a Notary. Also, the parent should fill out the Medical History Report as well.
b. Involuntary Termination
If the biological mother/father will not sign the affidavit, then termination proceedings must be held. In this situation, there is no guarantee the Judge will grant the termination. Termination must be granted before the child can be adopted by the stepparent. Contact a lawyer for more information (see also Chapter 161 of the Texas Family Code). This is a mini legal process in and of itself and may require the appointment of an attorney ad litem and a home study among other things.
2. Next: Adoption
If and when the termination of the parent is granted, then you can go forward with the adoption part of the case.
a. Who are the parties?
In a stepparent adoption, the “Petitioners” are (1) the child’s stepparent asking the court for the adoption order, and (2) the stepparent’s spouse (the child’s parent whose right will not be terminated). Though the stepparent is the actual one adopting the child, the spouse of the stepparent also needs to join as petitioner in the adoption case.
The “Respondent” in a stepparent adoption is the child’s other parent (if living) whose parental rights will need to be terminated, and anyone with a court-ordered relationship with the child. If the parent-child relationship has already been terminated, that parent does not need to be listed as respondent in the adoption case.
b. Requirements and Steps
(1) the child needs to have lived with the stepparent for at least 6 months before adoption can be filed (however, this requirement can be waived if it is in the best interest of the child; this will be up to the Judge to decide).
(2) the stepparent will need to obtain their own criminal history report. This needs to be filed with the Court before a final hearing can be held on the adoption.
(3) an adoption evaluation will be ordered and must be conducted.
(4) An amicus attorney or an Attorney Ad Litem (“AAL”) will be appointed to your case once the petition has been filed. This is another step in verifying the best interest of the child for the Court.
(5) if the child is 12 years or older, the child will need to sign a consent to being adopted.
(6) when all of the above is done, a final hearing will be held where the Judge will (hopefully) sign the Order for Adoption.
You are now the proud parent of your child! Please note that this does not serve as legal advice and that you should contact an attorney should you have further questions regarding your case.