You and your spouse are happily married in Texas. You love your stepchild and have gladly taken on parental duties for them. Understandably, you want to make it official and adopt the child. “Can I adopt my spouse’s child,” you ask? That question comes up regularly at our Fort Worth law firm, and the answer largely depends on the status of the other biological parent.
If the other biological parent is deceased, you can move forward with the adoption process by filing a Texas Adoption of a Child petition with the family court. The court will also require you to undergo a thorough background check and a home study, where a court-appointed social study evaluator will investigate the child’s living conditions and the family’s financial circumstances.
Depending on the county where you reside, the court may also appoint an amicus or ad litem attorney on behalf of the child to determine whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child. The attorney will conduct a separate investigation and hold interviews of family members and other parties involved in the child’s life.
Adopting a child in Texas can be expensive
Keep in mind, along with your personal attorney fees, you will be responsible for paying any fees related to background checks, home study, the social study evaluator and the amicus or ad litem attorney, so be prepared. The state of Texas takes adoption seriously, so the process will take time, and it can be costly.
The court will consider any background checks, as well as the findings of the social study and amicus or ad litem attorney when determining whether to approve the adoption. Considerations also include the child’s age, how long the child has lived in the same residence with the stepparent and other requirements.
When adopting a spouse’s child gets tricky
If the other biological parent is still alive, you’ll need to take steps to terminate his or her parental rights before you can adopt your spouse’s child. Some parents relinquish their parental rights voluntarily, but many resist. In addition, the Texas family courts are hesitant to terminate a parent’s rights unless that parent poses a danger to the child physically or emotionally.
Should you and your spouse believe that to be the case, you will need to provide proof that such a danger exists—and that often isn’t easy. The Texas Family Code does allow for the termination of parental rights in other circumstances but it can get complicated, which is why hiring a family law attorney experienced in adoption is essential.
Learn more about handling adoption with an absent or unsupportive parent.
Even when terminating the other parent’s parental rights isn’t an option—which means adoption isn’t possible—there are other legal steps you and your spouse can take to protect the child. An experienced family lawyer can explain those options to you.
Have questions about adoption in Fort Worth, Arlington or elsewhere in the DFW metroplex?
At the Sisemore Law Firm, we understand the challenges stepparents face when seeking to adopt a spouse’s child because we have been helping clients with stepparent adoptions for well over a decade. Termination adoptions can be very difficult to obtain because they involve many moving parts and timing is key. They can also be very expensive and time consuming.
To learn how we may be able to assist you with adoption or terminating a parent-child relationship, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our founder Justin Sisemore. During the consultation, Justin will thoroughly review your case and give you honest, straightforward advice. To schedule a confidential, one-on-one consultation, give us a call at 817.336.4444 or visit our contact page.