A stepparent adoption often seems like a natural and logical step to take. The longer that you have lived with and provided for your stepchild, the more strongly you may feel about becoming an official member of their family. If you adopt your stepchild, you help guarantee that you will have custody rights in a divorce. You can also be the person who continues to take care of them if your spouse dies.
For many willing stepparents in Texas considering an adoption, the parental rights of the stepchild’s other parent may be the biggest obstacle they need to overcome.
Parents have rights until they give them up or the state terminates them
Every parent in Texas has a right to spend time with their children and have a say in the life that they live. Occasionally, parents will lose those rights because the state involuntarily terminates them. If the other parent of your stepchild is in state custody for child abuse or neglect, Texas authorities may have already terminated their parental rights.
If the state has not already done so, you have to take that step yourself, or you cannot adopt. The simplest way is to directly approach the other parent. You may have some difficulty tracking them down if they don’t have a current address on record due to their attempts to avoid child support obligations.
When you do locate them, you will need to convince them that signing off on their parental rights would be good for them or the child. For some parents, the stability the adoption offers the child could convince them to sign the paperwork. For others, the end of their responsibility to pay child support could be a powerful motivator.
They will need to voluntarily sign paperwork rescinding their parental rights. That signature combined with your willingness to adopt can convince a Texas family law judge to approve the paperwork because the change would be in the best interests of the children in question. Parents can typically only give up their parental rights if it would be what is best for the children, and stepparent adoption is one of the few circumstances in which that would be the case.
Learning more about the rules that govern adoption proceedings in Texas can help stepparents who are ready to accept the responsibilities of legal parenthood for their stepchild.