In our country today we have more blended families than ever before. As divorce has become more prevalent and common those divorced persons have remarried and blended children from their prior marriage into a new home. If you have gotten a divorce and then remarried, you may have stepchildren in your home. it is only natural that with spending time with children like this you would develop a relationship with them and grow to love them much like your own children. With this in mind you and your current spouse may have even talked about the possibility of your adopting your stepchild to become one of your own children in a legal sense.
This is a major decision to make in one that you should not enter into without careful consideration. The nature of your relationship with your spouse and with that child may change to a certain extent once the child is your legal responsibility. Being a stepparent in many ways can be more akin to be an uncle or other more distant relative. Yes, you were able to spend time with this child a great deal, but you ultimately bear no legal responsibility to his or her upbringing. Once you take on the responsibilities and duties of raising that child as your own the situation changes.
This is something that can benefit you and can certainly benefit your stepchild depending on your specific circumstances. What we need to talk about is what happens in the event that you and your spouse are interested in you adopting your stepchild. While this may seem like a quaint and in some cases necessary thing to do there are hurdles to getting it done. We would be remiss if we did not mention that there are difficulties associated with adopting a stepchild most notably in regard to the fact that you're a stepchild has two parents already.
The law will not allow a child to have more than two legal parents. This is true whether or not the child you are attempting to adopt is your stepchild or not. In cases like these, what can you do to overcome problems in regard to the other parent not agreeing to your adoption request? Since he or she would need to consent and give their permission to your adopting the child this may appear to be a roadblock that is insurmountable.
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan we will discuss what to do and how to go about adopting your stepchild in the event that the other parent does not agree to allow you to do so. The process of adopting a stepchild can appear to be fairly straightforward but as with any issue regarding family law the facts and circumstances of your case will be incredibly important. Today we will walk through how to handle a scenario like this and then provide you with some general information about stepparent adoption.
What are the essential pieces of information that you need to know in regard to stepparent adoption?
When you are not the biological or legal parent to a child and seek to become so you are needing to take part in the adoption process. That process begins with petitioning a family law court with jurisdiction over your stepchild and yourself to be named as that child's parent. You would not be petitioning the court to be named as that child's adoptive parent. You would be seeking the same legal rights and duties as a biological parent. There is no distinction under the law that you would have been the child adoptive parent. You would hold the same rights and duties to the child as your spouse does.
Once the adoption goes through your child would get a new birth certificate that names you and their natural born parent as his or her parents. You are child could take your last name Ann would be in a position to inherit benefits through you under the laws of intestacy and also through possible benefits under Social Security. Adopting a stepchild has some additional requirements for you to be mindful of, as well.
First, the child that you seek to adopt would need to have only one living biological parent. This means that your spouse would obviously be living but the child's other parent would need to be deceased. While this may not be the easiest scenario for the child too be adopted under it would make for an easier discussion about stepparent adoption. There wouldn't be the need to have any conversation about how to overcome a lack of consent from the other parent so we will leave this possibility to the side.
Second, your stepchild’s biological parent would need to signed documents and consent to the adoption. I could envision a scenario where the other parent is not actively involved in your stepchild's life and has instead chosen 2 be reasonable and understand that while he or she may not be in a position to care for the child's needs it is apparent to him her that you are. As a result, he or she could verbally consent to you and your spouse to allow you to adopt a child and then participate in the court process & documents naming you as that child's legal parent.
The final scenario that you should be mindful of is that it is possible that not only is your stepchild’s other parent not actively involved in their life but he or she may not be able to be located through diligent search. In cases like this, not only will you have to show that you and your spouse have not been able to locate the parent but that an attorney appointed by the court, known as an ad litem, has been unable to locate that parent either. Once a judge is satisfied that the other parent cannot be located your adoption would be able to proceed.
What happens if the other parent will not consent to your adopting your stepchild?
This is the question that we posed at the beginning of today's blog post and is the one that we need to answer in order to provide you with some clarification and guidance on how best to proceed in your own stepparent adoption scenario. In order for you to legally adopt your child the other parents parental rights in relation to your stepchild would need to be terminated. This is the legal step involved in ensuring that your stepchild does not have 3 parents. A court order would need to be sought terminating that parents parental rights if he or she does not consent and give permission to doing so voluntarily.
your spouse would need to consent to your adoption of the child which obviously would not be an issue. You and your attorney could then approach the biological parent and ask him or her for their consent to your adoption request. It is possible that the biological parent could seek representation by an attorney given how serious of a request it is to terminate parental rights. This does not only mean that the biological parent would lose the right to spend time with their child but would also mean that he or she would lose the right to make decisions on behalf of that child. Essentially, it would be as if that parent in your stepchild never had a parent child relationship to begin with Anne would be no more related than you and I are.
In the event that the biological parent refuses to consent to your stepparent adoption, the matter would need to be taken before a family court judge and he or she moved would then need to determine whether or not it was in your stepchild's best interests for you to adopt him or her. Essentially, a judge would need to determine whether or not it is in the best interests of your stepchild to have their other parents rights terminated and then allow for your adoption request to proceed.
A best interests of the child determination should be familiar to any of you that read our blog with regularity. Judges have to make best interest determination's in regard to children all the time for a range of different family law cases. It is likely that your family court judge would assess the physical, emotional, health, educational and general outlook 4 your stepchild under the two different possible outcomes in the case. Those outcomes are allowing your adoption to proceed and terminating the other parents rights or refusing the adoption and declining to terminate the parental rights of that parent.
Terminating a parent's parental rights is, needless to say, an extremely serious situation in one that a judge would not agree to do without careful consideration. There is no going back and the biological parent who has their parental rights terminated cannot in the future petitioned the court to have those rights reinstated. Once your parental rights are terminated in relation to a child there is no going back. As a result, and judge will typically look very closely at your circumstances to determine whether or not termination of parental rights is even a possibility.
The steps involved in a contested stepparent adoption case
you and your spouse would file joint petitions for adoption in regard to your stepparent adoption request. This means that both of you would file the same document with the court and request to have the other biological parents rights terminated and to have you named as that child's legal parent. One of the first steps in that process will be the judge appointing a social worker or other similar person to begin a social study of your family.
A social study is a fairly common practice for different family law cases. An independent, third party social worker or professional will be appointed to your case and will conduct interviews of the relevant parties, review the nature of the relationship between your stepchild and the adults in this case and will inspect your home for suitability in the adoption process. A social study can, at times, feel a bit intrusive and uncomfortable but it is necessary for the judge to learn as much as possible about your home life.
Next, an attorney will be appointed to represent your stepchild's interests independent of any adult involved in the case. Many parents will take issue with this step believing that they represent the best interests of their child or stepchild. However, it is important to note that the judge will want to ensure that your child has an objective and dispassionate advocate on their behalf to determine another outlook for what is in that child's best interest. The amicus attorney will perform similar work to the social study liaison and will make recommendations to the judge about how the adoption petition should be ruled upon.
Once these steps are complete a hearing will be held in which evidence can be presented by both the biological parent and you and your spouse. At the conclusion of that hearing a judge will consider the evidence presented and issue rulings in regard to the adoption request. If you are granted your request to adopt your stepchild a separate hearing will be held to make everything official and to complete the adoption process.
Questions about stepparent adoption in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material presented in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office, over the phone and via video. Thank you for your interest in our law practice and we hope you will join us tomorrow again on our blog as we continue to post unique content about the world of Texas family law. We are privileged to serve our neighbors in Southeast Texas in whatever family law circumstances they find themselves in. We would be honored to speak to you and your family but joining with our law practice and allowing us to serve you and your family.