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What is the process for adopting your stepchildren in Texas?

Many people in Texas who marry a person who already has children want to adopt those children at some point. This can be particularly beneficial for the children's sense of a security if their biological father has little or no role in their lives. If the stepparent has taken on the role of mother or father, adoption can further solidify the family.

The process of adopting a stepchild, however, can be complicated. It requires two key steps. First, the non-custodial parent must terminate his or her rights. Depending upon the situation, this may or may not be a relatively simple matter. If the non-custodial parent agrees, that person just needs to relinquish parental rights. By doing that, the parent is saying that he or she and the child have no relationship. For some parents, even those who have not been part of their children's lives, this may not be something they can bring themselves to do.

If a parent refuses to terminate parental rights, a Texas family law attorney can fight the refusal. If that parent has been incarcerated for two or more years, is behind on child support or if abuse or neglect can be shown, the stepparent and spouse may be still be able to adopt the child.

Once a child is adopted by a stepparent, the non-custodial child will no longer be responsible for child support. He or she will, however, be responsible for support owed up until then.

Once the first step is completed, the couple (the custodial parent and stepparent) will need to go through the adoption process together. The primary concern is that the child and the stepparent have a good relationship and that the adoption is beneficial for the child. This involves a review of the home environment and a look at both parents' backgrounds.

Whenever a stepparent adoption is contemplated, it is essential for the couple to get legal advice from a Texas family law attorney experienced in stepparent adoption. Our website has additional information on stepparent adoptions. Even if there are complications, such as a non-custodial parent's refusal to terminate rights, experienced legal professionals can work to help the process go as smoothly as possible.

Source: Weinman & Associates, "Guiding Texas Families Through Step-Parent Adoptions" Aug. 25, 2014

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