Today there are many stepparents who love and raise their stepchildren as their own. Why not make them your own legally? The decision to adopt your stepchild reflects your love and commitment to everyone in your family. To adopt a child in Texas you must be at least 21 years of age and a responsible and financially able provider. The application and process involves several steps and an experienced family law attorney can help advise and represent you to ensure success in adopting your stepchild.
Once you adopt your stepson or stepdaughter, they become your legal child with all the rights and responsibilities as a natural born child. As parents think about estate planning and caring for the family and its wealth preservation, adopting stepchildren makes them a legally recognized child for will and estate planning purposes. Without formally adopting a stepchild, there is no legal operation of law that would treat a stepchild as a naturally born child.
Adopting a stepchild requires consent or the termination of the other natural parent
If for example, you are married to the mother and custodial parent, the non-custodial father must consent to the adoption and their natural parental rights would need to be terminated as a matter of law. If the non-custodial parent is not involved in the child’s life, it may be easy to get them to voluntarily waive their custody, visitation and natural parental rights so that you can adopt the child as the stepparent.
In the event the other natural parent is deceased, the same would have to be proven in court to proceed in an adoption. Where the other natural parent is alive and ascertainable, an action may be filed in the court to terminate the other’s parental rights. The parent whose rights are sought to be terminated must receive service of process to be aware of the proceedings and have the right to appear before the court. In some cases, the other parent is in prison or has lost contact and is nowhere to be found. There are a variety of possible issues in parental termination actions.
The court ordered social study and evaluation process
Adoption requirements in Texas include a social study evaluation. An official evaluator will visit you and your family to learn more about everyone involved and to consider the best interests of the to-be-adopted child. The evaluator prepares a social study report and recommendation to the judge in the adoption case. Judges give significant weight to the evaluator’s report, but are not bound by it and can make their own decision based on facts and appropriate discretion.
Social study evaluations should include information about the all the relationship a child may have with various family members and those interested in the adoption case. While the purpose behind these evaluations is to prevent unfit individuals from obtaining legal rights as parents of non-natural born children, the process also allows for communications about the long lasting legal implications of an adoption of the natural born child of another.
Adoption proceedings in court involve an amicus attorney
Once the social study evaluation is complete the court can appoint an amicus attorney to serve the court in reviewing all the information in the file, conducting their own similar investigations and research, and presenting a recommendation to the judge whether to allow the adoption to be finalized. What may appear a redundant lawyer of procedure is an important part of the adoption case, another set of eyes and ears on each adoption.
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