Stepparent Adoption Lawyer in Austin

stepparent adoption lawyer in austin texas text overlay and a stepparent and child in backgroundStepparent Adoption Lawyer in Austin

Adopting your stepchild is an admirable decision that can positively benefit your stepchild’s life. Adoption can strengthen the connection between you and the child and strengthen the bonds in your blended family. As you embark on this journey, you should find a trusted stepparent adoption lawyer in Austin to guide you.

The legal process of adopting your stepchild can be complex, with many points to cover and hurdles to cross. You might need permission from the parent who is not your spouse. If they agree, it’s easier. If not, it could be more challenging. You need to file papers with the court. There is a court hearing where a judge decides if the adoption can happen. Adopting a stepchild is a meticulous legal process, and carefully following Texas laws is essential to a successful adoption.

Getting a lawyer who knows about adoption in Texas is a good idea. They can help you understand the laws and do everything right. Having a lawyer can make the process go more smoothly. Our experienced team of adoption attorneys in Austin at Smith Family Law wants to help. After reviewing the information below, call us today at (512) 277-3166 or contact us online for a complimentary consultation.

What Is Stepparent Adoption?

Adoption is making a child legally your own and assuming all the rights and responsibilities that come with that change. A stepparent adoption is unique because the stepchild may have a relationship with their biological parent, who will need to consent to the adoption, or the court will need to terminate their parental rights first.

After successful adoption, the stepparent gains full parental rights and responsibilities for the child. The adopted child can have a new birth certificate, assume a new last name, and be granted the same legal rights as a natural-born child, including inheritance rights and other decision-making rights that come with being next-of-kin.

Why Can Stepparent Adoption Be Beneficial?

Adopting your stepchild can bring many emotional and family benefits that contribute to a stronger, more cohesive bond within your family unit. First, it solidifies a sense of belonging and permanence for the child. The act of adoption affirms your commitment to them, your intent to provide emotional security, and build a deeper connection.

Adoption can also foster family unity. It bridges any perceived gaps between the stepchild and other rights and responsibilities and nurtures an authentic emotional relationship based on shared family experiences and status.

For the stepchild, adoption can signify a tangible affirmation of love and acceptance. It can bolster their self-esteem, offering reassurance that they are a cherished and integral part of the family. The emotional benefits can also extend to siblings, who experience an enriched sense of family unity and closeness.

As an adoptive stepparent, adopting your stepchild showcases your commitment and dedication to their well-being, strengthening the parent-child relationship. Adopting a stepchild is a profound and meaningful way to solidify the emotional foundation of your family.

What Are the Criteria for Texas Stepparent Adoption?

  • Marriage and Residency – As implied in the type of adoption, you must be the child’s stepparent, meaning you must be married to the child’s biological parent. Further, before you can file for adoption, the child must reside with you for at least six months, during which time you’ve provided for the care and support of the child.
  • Consent of Both Parents – Both legal parents must agree to the adoption, meaning one parent must forfeit their rights or have them court-terminated. Involuntarily terminating another person’s parental rights is a complicated, weighty, and detailed legal procedure you should discuss pursuing with legal counsel.
  • Child’s Consent – A child 12 or older must consent to the adoption in writing or in court may waive this requirement if it would serve the child’s best interest.

What Is the Legal Process to Adopt a Stepchild in Texas?

If you meet the formal criteria to adopt a stepchild in Texas, you must follow specific legal steps to make the adoption official.

  • Filing Your Adoption Petition –We can assist you in starting the adoption process for your stepchild by filing a petition in your local court. We can file an “Original Petition for Adoption” or a “Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Step Parent Adoption.” The former is used when the child has one parent with rights (either due to the other’s death or lost rights). The latter is for when the other parent is alive and needs a court order to terminate their rights.
  • Seeking Parental Consent – After filing the Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Step Parent Adoption, you must then formally serve the petition on the child’s other legal parent. You do not need to do this if you can instead file an Original Petition for Adoption. The other parent can choose to consent to the adoption. If they refuse to consent, you must seek a court order to terminate their parental rights. This process can be lengthy and messy and may require multiple court hearings.
  • Finalizing the Adoption – Once you have filed all the necessary paperwork, the court will set a hearing date. You and the child (if 12 or older) must attend the court adoption hearing. During the hearing, the judge will ask about your bond with the child and your reasons for adoption.

The court may order an adoption evaluation (Texas Family Code 107.153 and Texas Family Code 162.003) or may appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the child(ren) in the case (Texas Family Code 107.003 and 107.004).

If the judge deems the adoption beneficial for the child, they’ll sign an order formalizing it.

What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities After Adopting Your Stepchild?

Upon finalizing your stepparent adoption in Texas, you’ll have the same rights and duties as a biological parent. These rights and responsibilities include:

  • Parental Rights – You can decide about your adopted child’s education, medical care, and religious upbringing. Your consent is needed for the child’s school enrollment and medical care. You and your adoptive child also share inheritance rights. You will have the right to inherit from your child, and they will have the right to inherit from you. Legal adoption will also allow you and the child to change their legal name.
  • Parental Responsibilities – After adopting your stepchild, you’re legally bound to provide financial support, housing, food, and clothing. You will be responsible for paying for your minor child’s education and health care costs.

These rights and responsibilities will remain even if you divorce the adopted child’s biological parent, meaning you may have to pay child support for your adopted child, among other responsibilities.

Do You Need an Austin, Texas Adoption Attorney?

two step parents and a step child consulting with a step child adoption lawyer in austinThe stepparent adoption process involves complex legal procedures and many potential challenges, including the termination of parental rights of the other biological parent. An experienced Texas adoption attorney can provide invaluable guidance in the legal process of adopting your stepchild. Some of the ways we can help include:

  • Navigating Legal Requirements – Stepchild adoption in Austin, Texas, requires adhering to formal rules and formalities. For example, simply filing incorrect documents can result in the dismissal of your case. An adept adoption attorney can guide prospective parents through requirements, including getting consent from the non-custodial biological parent.
  • Ensuring Smooth Proceedings – A Texas adoption can help you properly and accurately complete and submit all necessary documents, minimizing delays or complications in the stepparent adoption process. Our team guides clients through each step, from the initial paperwork to the final court hearing.
  • Overcoming Potential Challenges – In cases where the biological parent is uncooperative or hesitant to provide consent, an attorney can provide strategic guidance on approaching and potentially addressing these challenges, safeguarding the interests of both the child and the adoptive stepparent.
  • Post-Adoption Guidance – Even after you finalize the adoption, our attorneys can offer guidance on name changes, updating legal documents, and ensuring the adopted child’s rights and privileges are fully recognized.

Smith Family Law Can Guide You Through Your Stepparent Adoption

Adopting a child is a significant and life-changing decision. And stepparent adoption in Austin, Texas, can be an involved process. Your decision to hire an adoption attorney is a prudent one.

Our compassionate team is knowledgeable in Texas adoption procedures and is able to guide your journey while you seek to solidify your familial bonds and provide a nurturing, loving home for your stepchild. Although you’re ready to expand your family, following the proper laws and procedures to meet this goal is essential.

Smith Family Law can help you determine your eligibility to adopt and provide the trusted legal assistance you need. Call us at (512) 277-3166 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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Written by: Smith Family Law