Life is full of twists and turns and having to make difficult decisions. Amongst the most common of life’s most impactful changes are marriage, having children, divorce and remarriage.
When marriage or remarriage occurs and there are children involved, the child’s well-being is important. In some cases, what is best for the child(ren) is stepparent adoption, where the spouse becomes the legal parent of their spouse’s child. This means the adoptive stepparents will assume legal and financial responsibility for their spouse’s child(ren) and absolve the non-custodial parent from all parental responsibilities, including child support.
PP&T welcomes cases of stepparent adoption. Family is important and your child’s well-being is our top priority.
As with any case involving children, the goal is to obtain what is in the child’s best interest. Therefore, in some cases the Court will require a social study involving an appointed ad litem who will make sure the adoptive home is a good place for the child. However, because in a stepparent adoption the parties are related, some Courts may remove these requirements to speed up the adoption process. The main issue that most stepparents face when adopting a stepchild is obtaining consent from the other birth parent.
In Texas, the stepparent may petition to adopt the child and the other parent’s parental rights must be voluntarily relinquished or involuntarily terminated by the Court, before the adoption can take place. The petition for termination of parental rights and for the stepparent adoption can be filed together. Parental rights are typically terminated in instances of abandonment, neglect, unfitness, or failure to pay child support. In these cases, a stepparent may have an easier time getting consent, because the birth parent does not have a relationship with the child anyway. In other cases, the birth parent may recognize that a stepparent adoption is in the child’s best interest, and consent will not be difficult to obtain.
The Texas Family Code provides a list of circumstances that would be seen as grounds for termination of parental rights. The list includes, but is not limited to, the instances written below.
The parent-child relationship may be terminated if the parent has:
- voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another, and expressed intent not to return to the child
- voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child, and remained away for a period of at least six months
- knowingly placed or allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endangered the physical or emotional well-being of the child
- engaged in conduct, or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct, which endangered the physical or emotional well-being of the child
- failed to support the child in accordance with the parent’s ability during a period of one year, ending within six months of the date of the filing petition
- voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy and continuing through birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during the abandonment period, and remained apart from the child or failed to support the child since birth
- been the major cause of the failure of the child to be enrolled in school
- executed before or after the suit is filed, an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights as provided in this list
- used a controlled substance in a manner that endangered the health or safety of the child, and:
- failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program
- after completion of a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program, continued to abuse the substance
- knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that resulted in:
- conviction of an offense
- confinement of imprisonment and inability to care for the child for no less than two years from the petition filing date
- been the cause of the child being born addicted to alcohol or another controlled substance
After termination of the other parent’s rights, your attorney and ad litem will ask questions of the parent and adoptive parents, and possibly of the child. This provides evidence on record that all legal requirements have been met. All that’s left is finalizing the adoption, when adoption certificates will be issued.