Adopting a stepchild can be a beautiful gesture of love, creating a deep family bond that will last forever. However, there are many factors for stepparents to consider before beginning the adoption process. Adoption is a life-long commitment with real life ramifications. Before rushing into adoption, make sure you understand the emotional, legal, and financial significance of this decision.
If you are considering adopting your stepchildren, chances are you already love them and treat them as your own. Taking legal action to make the adoption official can have an incredibly positive impact on your stepchildren’s sense of family belonging. Children who lack a close relationship with both their biological parents find a stepparent’s adoption to be especially beneficial. A meaningful parent-child relationship with your stepchild will bring him or her security, stability, and self-confidence.
What are the Legal and Financial Ramifications of Adopting a Stepchild in Texas?
Although stepparents play an important role in their stepchildren’s lives, they do not possess the same legal rights and responsibilities as biological or legally recognized parents. Adopting a stepchild makes you legally and financially responsible for the child. Adopting your stepchild will grant you legal decision making authority for medical care and other major decisions. If you should ever legally separate or divorce your spouse, you will be entitled to some custody or visitation rights to your stepchildren.
Adopting your spouse’s children will also give them access to financial benefits, like health insurance, inheritance, or survivor benefits. However, if a child’s biological parent is paying child support, these payments will end when the parent consents to terminate his parental rights. If you and your spouse divorce, you will still be financially responsible for, and could be ordered to pay child support to, your spouse’s children.
What is the Adoption Process Like in Texas?
The process of adopting a stepchild in Texas is similar to any other adoption case. The stepparent files a petition to adopt, usually through an attorney, in his or her local family court. The stepparent will only be allowed to adopt his or her spouse’s children if the biological parent is unknown, deceased, or absent/uninvolved. If the biological parent is known and alive, he or she can voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights, or a judge may decide to terminate his or her parental rights without his consent if it is found to be in the best interests of the child.
A social worker will run extensive background checks, conduct a home visit, and interview the parents and the children to ensure the soundness of the adoption decision. A third party attorney appointed by the court (called an amicus attorney) will also study the home situation and family dynamics and make a recommendation to the judge. A judge will then decide whether the adoption should be finalized.
Is Stepparent Adoption Right for Me?
There are many emotional, financial, and legal benefits to stepparent adoption. However, it is not necessarily the best decision for every family. First, the child’s biological parent must consent to the adoption or have his or her parental rights terminated.
Additionally, we do not recommend adoption as a means to “fix” a struggling marriage or stepparent-stepchild relationship. Family counseling to work through any unresolved issues may be a good idea when you are weighing the decision to adopt.
Need Assistance Adopting Your Stepchild? Call a Texas Family Law Attorney
If you are considering adopting your stepchildren, the Law Offices of Sharita Blacknall may be able to help. Call our office in Dallas, Texas at (214) 678-9111 to schedule a consultation.