Stepparents help a child

During the last several decades, divorces, remarriages, and blended families have become common in Texas and throughout the country. In fact, it is widely believed that stepparent adoptions are the most frequent type of adoption in the United States. Although this is hard to prove since statistics do not identify adoptions by stepparents as a separate category, the experienced family law attorneys at Navarrete & Schwartz, P.C., with clients throughout West Texas, have gathered anecdotal evidence to support this theory.

If you are a stepparent eager to permanently solidify your relationship with a beloved stepchild, contacting our office in Midland is a wise move. Our adoption lawyers, beyond having well-honed legal skills, have a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to, the emotional intricacies of family relationships. These qualities will be invaluable in helping you to ensure a smooth transition as you redefine you family constellation and secure your child’s future.

Reasons for Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption not only cements the emotional bond between a stepparent and stepchild. It also acknowledges the legality of that relationship, which includes bestowing rights and responsibilities on the parent relative to the child, such as establishing that the parent:

  • Has a duty to support the child financially as well as emotionally
  • Has a legal say in the decisions regarding the child’s education, religious instruction, and healthcare decisions 
  • Wants the child to be their legal heir 
  • Will have full parental rights if the child’s other parent becomes incapacitated or dies
  • Loves the child and want the child to count on them, not simply in a parental role but as their actual, permanent parent

Once the child is adopted, the parent and child officially belong to the same family. It should be noted that gay married stepparents can adopt their stepchild in the same way 

straight stepparents can.

Eligibility To Adopt a Child in Texas

In Texas, the criteria for stepparent adoption eligibility, listed below, are straightforward. 

  • The stepparent must be legally married to the child’s biological parent.
  • The stepparent must have lived with the child for at least 6 months.
  • They must have the consent of the noncustodial biological parent, or the parent must have had their parental rights legally terminated by the court.
  • The stepparent must be an adult and, typically must pass a home study evaluation that assesses their suitability as a parent.

Of course, that second criterion can present a substantial hurdle. If the noncustodial parent is alive and a fit parent who does not want to yield parental rights, it may be insurmontable. 

The Step-by-Step Adoption Process in Texas

Even with the noncustodial parent’s consent or the court’s approval, the steps to adopting your stepchild in Texas can be more time-consuming and stressful than they may seem at first. Don’t worry though. Once you become a client of Navarrete & Schwartz, you will find that our savvy adoption attorneys know precisely how to handle each stage of the process. We will make sure that we have a full understanding of your family’s history before we get started in order to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible for all members of your family:

Step 1: Petition for Adoption

Our lawyers will draft all necessary documents and file the adoption petition with family court, making certain that all deadlines are met.

Step 2: Termination of Parental Rights

The noncustodial parent’s rights must be legally ended either by consent or through a court order. In the latter case, we can assist you in having their rights legally terminated if that parent has:

  • Abandoned the child with no intent to return
  • Failed to financially support the child and meet their needs 
  • Contributed to an environment where the child is abused or neglected
  • Knowingly placed the child in dangerous conditions (e.g. exposing them to situations involving substance abuse or criminal activity)
  • Failed to enroll the child in school
  • Been convicted of crimes against children
  • Been absent from the child’s home without permission from the other parent or guardian
  • Engaged knowingly in criminal conduct that resulted in conviction and incarceration
  • Murdered or attempted to murder the child’s other parent

If the noncustodial parent is unfit, our attorneys will be at your side to help you prove this to the court. If the noncustodial parent contests having their parental rights terminated, the process will likely take longer and be more difficult to maneuver, but you can count on our dedicated legal team to support you every inch of the way.

Step 3: Study by a Social Worker of the Home Environment

During this study, a professional will evaluate the home environment to make sure that it’s safe and that the relationships in the household are warm and appropriate.

Step 4: Adoption Hearing

The final step is the adoption hearing, in which the court reviews the adoption case and, if all is in order, legally recognizes the stepparent as the child’s parent.

Contact Our Experienced Stepparent Adoption Attorneys Today

Adopting a stepchild is significant action, going a long way towards building a secure and legally recognized family bond. At Navarrete & Schwartz, we understand the importance of this decision and are dedicated to assisting your family as you embark on this journey. Contact us today to discuss how we can best support you and your loved ones as you make and fulfill this profound promise.