When you marry a person who already has a child, you and your spouse may decide on stepparent adoption. With this process, you would become the child’s legal parent.
Learn about the process Texas follows for stepparent adoption.
File a petition
The adoption process begins when the stepparent and his or her spouse (the child’s parent) open a joint case. Typically, the stepparent must live with the child for at least six months before filing an adoption petition.
You must file your petition in the district or county court where your stepchild lives. If the child’s noncustodial parent has died or had his or her parental rights terminated, use the Original Petition for Adoption form. When you are also requesting termination of the noncustodial parent’s rights, use the Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Adoption form.
Attend the hearing
When you file the petition, the court will schedule a hearing that both the stepparent and his or her spouse must attend. Children ages 12 and older must also attend because they must consent to the adoption either in court or in writing. Depending on your county, you may have to undergo an adoption evaluation and/or criminal background check. In some cases, the court may require a child custody evaluation or the appointment of a guardian ad litem to act on your child’s behalf.
Understand the factors in court determination
At the hearing, the judge will first make sure the child is eligible for adoption. The court must terminate the rights of the other biological parent if he or she is still living and still has parental rights. If this individual agrees to termination, he or she can sign an affidavit to that effect. The court can terminate parental rights without an affidavit if the person participates in criminal activities, or if he or she neglected, abandoned or failed to support the child. In addition to terminating parental rights, the judge must also find that stepparent adoption is in the child’s leading interest.