The person who marries a child’s biological parent after the other biological parent dies, divorces, or otherwise leaves the household is commonly referred to as a stepparent. Texas allows these individuals to petition the court to legally adopt their spouse’s child or children.
A stepparent adoption generally involves a two-part process in Texas, the first aspect of which is terminating the rights of the biological parent no longer involved in the household. When this parent’s rights are terminated, he or she will not have any legal obligation to pay child support. Additionally, a stepparent who is granted adoptive rights assumes responsibility for supporting his or her spouse’s biological child or children if the spouse dies.
Attorney for Stepparent Adoption in Houston, TX
If you are preparing to file for a stepparent adoption in Southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to make sure that you retain legal counsel. [firm] represents clients in Houston and many surrounding areas of Harris County and Fort Bend County.
Houston divorce lawyer Michael Sydow is an experienced attorney and a member of both the Houston Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association. You can have our attorney provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call [phone] to schedule a free, no obligation consultation.
Harris County Stepparent Adoption Information Center
- How does a petitioner terminate the rights of a biological parent?
- What else might a court require of stepparent adoption petitioners?
- Where can I learn more about stepparent adoption in Houston?
After a stepparent biological parent file a joint stepparent adoption petition in the local family court, the petitioners will next need to terminate the parental rights of the deceased, divorced, or missing spouse. Termination of parental rights may be voluntary or involuntary.
When a biological parent voluntarily relinquishes his or her parental rights, an Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights will be filed after the termination petition is filed. When a biological parent does not voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights, the family court can terminate the parent-child relationship if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the best interest of the child and that the biological parent has:
- voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent and expressed an intent not to return;
- voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent without expressing an intent to return, without providing for the adequate support of the child, and remained away for a period of at least three months;
- 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 knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child;
- engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers 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 of the petition;
- abandoned the child without identifying the child or furnishing means of identification, and the child’s identity cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence;
- voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy with the child and continuing through the birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during the period of abandonment before the birth of the child, and remained apart from the child or failed to support the child since the birth;
- contumaciously refused to submit to a reasonable and lawful order of a court under Subchapter D, Chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code (relating to investigations of reports of child abuse or neglect);
- been the major cause of the failure of the child to be enrolled in school as required by the Education Code, or the child’s absence from the child’s home without the consent of the parents or guardian for a substantial length of time or without the intent to return;
- executed before or after the suit is filed an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights as provided by this chapter;
- been convicted or has been placed on community supervision, including deferred adjudication community supervision, for being criminally responsible for the death or serious injury of a child under one of the enumerated sections of the Penal Code, or under a law of another jurisdiction that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under one of those Penal Code sections, or adjudicated under Title 3 for conduct that caused the death or serious injury of a child and that would constitute a violation of one of the those Penal Code sections;
- had his or her parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child based on a finding that the parent’s conduct was in violation of Paragraph (D) or (E) or substantially equivalent provisions of the law of another state;
- constructively abandoned the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) for not less than six months, and DFPS made reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent, the parent has not regularly visited or maintained significant contact with the child, and the parent has demonstrated an inability to provide the child with a safe environment;
- failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for the parent to obtain the return of the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the DFPS for not less than nine months as a result of the child’s removal from the parent under Chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the child;
- 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 or, after completion of a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program, continued to abuse a controlled substance;
- knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that has resulted in the parent’s conviction of an offense and confinement or imprisonment and inability to care for the child for not less than two years from the date of filing the petition;
- been the cause of the child being born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance, other than a controlled substance legally obtained by prescription;
- voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider under Section 262.302 without expressing an intent to return for the child;
- been convicted of the murder of the other parent of the child, criminal attempt under Texas Penal Code § 15.01, criminal solicitation under Texas Penal Code § 15.03, the sexual assault of the other parent of the child under Texas Penal Code § 22.011 or 22.021, or under a law of another state, federal law, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of the aforementioned offenses; or
- been placed on community supervision, including deferred adjudication community supervision, or another functionally equivalent form of community supervision or probation, for being criminally responsible for the sexual assault of the other parent of the child under Texas Penal Code § 22.011 or 22.021, or under a law of another state, federal law, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under Texas Penal Code § 22.011 or 22.021, Penal Code.
After a petitioner has terminated the rights of a biological parent, the family law court may have a couple of additional requirements that need to be satisfied in order to determine that the adoption is in the best interests of the child. Depending on the case, the court may order a child custody evaluation and the appointment of an amicus attorney, attorney ad litem, or guardian ad litem.
Under Texas Family Code § 107.103, the court can order the preparation of a child custody evaluation regarding:
- the circumstances and condition of a child who is the subject of a suit, a party to a suit, and, if appropriate, the residence of any person requesting conservatorship of, possession of, or access to a child who is the subject of the suit; and
- any issue or question relating to the suit at the request of the court before or during the evaluation process.
Custody evaluations may include psychological evaluations.
Texas Family Code § 107.021(a) establishes that the court can appoint an amicus attorney, attorney ad litem, or guardian ad litem in a suit in which the best interests of a child are at issue, other than a suit filed by a governmental entity requesting termination of the parent-child relationship or appointment of the entity as conservator of the child. Under Texas Family Code § 107.021(b), the court can appoint an amicus attorney or attorney ad litem in a suit requesting termination of the parent-child relationship that is not filed by a governmental entity, unless the court finds that the interests of the child will be represented adequately by a party to the suit whose interests are not in conflict with the child’s interests.
Amicus attorneys are appointed by the court solely to determine the best interests of the child. The amicus attorney does not specifically represent the child.
An attorney ad litem, on the other hand, maintains an attorney-client relationship with the child. The guardian ad litem is a person appointed to represent best interests of the child and does not necessarily have to be a lawyer.
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) — When the Stepfamily Association of America voted not to renew its independent organization 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2006, it donated its history, website, and experts network to support the development and expansion of the NSRC. The NSRC identifies its primary objective as “serving as a clearinghouse of information, linking family science research on stepfamilies and best practices in work with couples and children in stepfamilies.” On this website, you can view a stepfamily fact sheet, read about stepfamily myths, and find answers to frequently asked questions.
Stepparent Adoption in Texas | Answers to Common Questions | TexasLawHelp.org — TexasLawHelp.org is a website dedicated to providing free, reliable legal information to low-income Texans that is a joint effort of legal aid, courts, and non-profit organizations throughout Texas. View a helpful series of answers to frequently asked questions about stepparent adoption in Texas. The document also provide links to applicable sections of the Texas Family Code as they relate to certain questions.
Find a Stepparent Adoption Lawyer in Houston, TX
Are you planning on filing for stepparent adoption in Southeast Texas? You will want to contact [firm] before submitting your petition.
Michael Sydow is an experienced family law attorney in Houston who represents individuals in communities all over Fort Bend County and Harris County. Call [phone] or fill out an online contact form to have our lawyer review your case and help you understand all of your legal options during a free initial consultation.