Blended families are more and more becoming the norm in Texas and around our country. With that, the dynamics of what a family looks like and who comprises the family are changing. In situations where a parent re-marries after divorce children begin to build a relationship with their step-parent. In some situations a step-parent may be in a position to step in and adopt their step-child. If you are a step-parent who is interested in exploring the possibility of adopting your step-child then today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC is for you.
Positive aspects of step-parent adoption
Adopting a step-child is not something that is overly common in our legal system but it does represent a self-less and loving act nonetheless. If your spouse’s ex-husband or wife has passed away, is absent much of the time or is otherwise in danger of losing their parental rights to your step-child you may be able to intercede and adopt your step-child. While your marriage may be new and you may not know your step-child overly well it is a gap that you can fill by inquiring and learning about step-parent adoption.
As with any legal process (especially in the field of family law) there are policies and procedures that you must follow in order to ensure an effective and efficient process in applying for the adoption. It is recommended that you hire an attorney to assist you with this endeavor due to the complex nature of the application process. The last thing you will want to do is to go about the process alone only to find out that you have missed a step or done something irregularly that causes a denial or your application. A licensed and experienced family law attorney (like those with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC) can assist and advocate on your behalf.
What exactly is step-parent adoption?
While we have alluded to step-parent adoptions throughout the opening to today’s blog post I wanted to clearly define what it is and how it can relate to you and your family. Step-parent adoption concerns when a spouse (such as yourself) of a parent asks a court to become the other legally recognized parent of a child through adoption. Step-parent adoption does not denote a different process than the traditional adoption process that many of us are familiar with. The only exception to this statement is that step-parent adoption is allowed in fewer circumstances.
The circumstances where step-parent adoption is allowable are when a biological/legal parent of a child is either deceased, unknown, indifferent or not involved. The child you are attempting to adopt must be in the possession and primary custody of your spouse. In these circumstances you would be able to petition a court to become the legal parent of a parent.
What is the step-parent adoption process like in Texas?
With the assistance of an experienced family law attorney you can undertake the step-parent adoption process. Let’s walk through each step so that you are more aware of what to expect:
Filing a petition for Adoption:
The Petition for Adoption will be filed with a court in the county where you and the child live. As I mentioned a moment ago, having an attorney by your side to assist in drafting and filing the petition is advisable.
Terminating Parental Rights of the other parent:
After the adoption petition has been filed, you and your attorney can turn your attention to filing for the termination of the parental rights of the parent who is absent from your step-child’s life. This is only possible if the other parent is known and alive. Often times you do not know who the other parent is and we will discuss that scenario in a moment. Termination of the parental rights of the other parent is a prerequisite for getting the adoption petition granted by a court. The standard that a judge would use to determine these issues should be familiar to you if you have regularly read this blog. A best interest of the child standard will be applied in order to determine whether the other parent’s parental rights should be terminated and whether your petition should ultimately be granted.
Once the absentee parent is served with notice of the proceedings he or she has an opportunity to agree to have their parental rights terminated. A hearing would be held where the judge would still have to decide whether or not to sign off on the termination. If the absentee parent does not agree to the termination then a trial is held on the matter. The best interest determination would be made once both sides- you and the legal parent- make their cases.
A social study is done:
If the termination is granted, the next step in the process is to have a home study done. You and your spouse’s home will be visited by a court appointed therapist, psychologist or other professional who will do an assessment of your living conditions and the nature of your relationship with your spouse and step-child. Not only will your home be visited but your employment and financial records will be audited. You, your spouse and the step-child are all likely to be interviewed as well. These steps are undertaken in order to allow the judge a full picture of the situation in an attempt to find out whether or not you are fit to adopt your step-child.
An amicus attorney is appointed:
Once your social study is completed then an Amicus Attorney is appointed by the judge to your case. An amicus attorney serves as an advisor to the court who is not interested in the case from the perspective of whether or not you should be able to adopt your step-child. His or her role is to do many of the same evaluations that have already been completed- including speaking to you and your family. General observations will be made as well and an attorney’s eye will be trained on you and your step-child in order to determine if it is in your step-child’s best interests that you be able to adopt him or her.
The social study and the opinion of the amicus attorney will be used as persuasive evidence presented to the judge. Within each will be a recommendation on whether the adoption should be able to proceed or not.
Concluding a step-parent adoption case
If you are a loving and devoted step-parent who is always available for your spouse and their child then you represent what is good and right with the adoption process in Texas. The fact that you are willing to go through the process of adoption and to pay to have the privilege of being your step-child’s legal parent is a beautiful act in my opinion.You are able to go about this process on your own but it is not recommended due to the complex nature of the application process. It is far easier to divorce a person than it is to become the mother or father of a child. Courts cast a discerning eye upon anyone who applies to be the legal parent of a child and you will be no exception. With as many steps in the process as there are involved here you will have to be well prepared for any circumstance that arises. For that reason I highly recommend that you collect as much information as possible about step-parent adoption
To learn more about the step-parent adoption process please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We work on behalf of southeast Texas families just like yours on a regular basis. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with licensed family law attorneys. To learn more about this or any other topic in family law please give us a call. It would be our honor to speak to you and to help you problem solve your way through any issue that you are facing.