How to Adopt a Stepchild in Texas
By Claire Gillespie
Updated July 30, 2018
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Many people want to adopt their stepchild to show their love and commitment to that child and provide additional security in the child's life. After adoption, your stepchild becomes your legal child, and you have the same rights and responsibilities as you do for a biological child. Adopting a stepchild in Texas involves various steps in accordance with Texas adoption laws.
Texas Adoption Laws
The relevant law for step parent adoption in Texas is the Texas Family Code, Chapter 162, Subchapter A. This concerns adoption of a child, and states that a child living in Texas may be adopted if the petitioner (stepparent) is married to a parent of the child.
If the other (biological) parent's rights to the child have not already been terminated, voluntary signing over of parental rights is required as part of the adoption process. Alternatively, the court will intervene to terminate the parent's rights.
If the other biological parent is deceased, this must be proved in court to let the adoption continue.
To adopt a child in Texas, you must be at least 21 years of age and able to provide for the child financially. Additionally, your stepchild must live with you for at least six months before you can petition the court for adoption.
Texas Adoption Procedure
The procedure for adopting your stepchild begins with filing an adoption petition with the local juvenile court in your county. You and your spouse must agree on the adoption and file as join petitioners. The other biological parent is the defendant.
After the petition is filed, the court orders a social study, in which a social study evaluator determines the quality of your relationship with your stepchild, as well the relationship of the defendant with the child. The evaluator must carry out interviews with all concerned parties, consider home environments and record any observations relevant to the case, such as the financial circumstances of the biological parents and stepparent.
An amicus attorney is appointed as a "friend of the court" to determine what outcome is in the child's best interests. This person interviews the parents and any other persons involved in the child's life and visits the child's home.
The costs of the social study evaluator and amicus attorney are almost always borne by the petitioners.
The court will consider all information provided by the petitioners, defendant, social study evaluator and amicus attorney before making a final judgment based on the best interests of the child.
Texas Stepparent Adoption Forms
Some Texas courts provide adoption forms on their websites. Otherwise, contact the district clerk's office at your local county court to request the adoption petition and any other necessary forms to start the stepchild adoption process.
If the defendant volunteers to relinquish parental rights, she can write and sign a statement confirming this and consenting to your adoption of the child. The statement must be notarized (witnessed by a notary), and all parties should keep a copy, with the original submitted to the court with the adoption petition.
Adoption can be a complicated process in Texas, so consider hiring an experienced family law attorney to assist you.
- Stepparent adoptions can be difficult on your child if he has any contact with his biological parent, even if he has developed a loving relationship with his stepparent. If this is the case, adoption should be only considered if it would dramatically improve the quality of the child’s life in some manner. Otherwise, it’s likely that he will feel torn between his stepparent and his biological parent, and this could cause emotional and developmental problems down the road.
Claire Gillespie writes about health, science, home and parenting. She has bylines on SELF, SheKnows, The Washington Post, Vice and more.