Adoption is considered a beautiful act. In the book Instant Mom, author Nia Vardalos writes, “Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound; it’s incredible and surprising.”

This explains why so many stepparents wish to adopt their spouse’s child.  Whether a parent is deceased or absent, or the non-custodial parent following divorce and re-marriage is willing to give up his parental rights, stepparent adoption can help solidify a child’s future and bring a family closer together.

But how does step-parent adoption in Texas work?

Tex. Fam. Code § 162.001(a)(2) allows the spouse of a parent whose rights who have not been terminated to petition the court for child custody. But a child cannot be adopted if a court has found it has two adjudicated parents.  If the child’s noncustodial parent is still alive, his or her rights must be terminated for the stepparent adoption to move forward.

Termination of parental rights can be as simple as the signing of a document or as difficult as a long and contentious court battle.  Working with an attorney experienced in family law cases and adoptions could help make this process easier for you.  Ideally, the custodial parent would receive a formal termination agreement from the absent parent.  If an agreement to terminate parental rights cannot be reached between the biological parents, a judge will decide whether it is in the best interest of the child for the termination to take place.

Changes in Familial Payment Structure

Many things change when an unmarried Dallas parent gains a new spouse. Most mportantly, if the non-custodial parent whose rights were terminated were paying child-support under court order, his obligation to make future support payments would be terminated as well.  However, termination of parental rights does not erase or forgive delinquent child support obligations. All past due support payments would be owed until paid in full.

Once the termination of parental rights has occurred, the stepparent adoption process can move forward.  Following a social study of the new home unit and with the advice of a court-appointed attorney for the child, a judge will decide if the stepparent adoption is in the best interest of the child.

The stepparent adoption is finalized upon the entering of a final adoption decree by the court. The decree establishes a parent-child relationship between the child and the adoptive parents as if the child were born to the adoptive parents during the marriage.  Now, the adopted child can inherit from his/her adopted stepparent under intestate succession and also as a beneficiary of a gift established in a will or other instrument for a class such as “children.”  Still, the adopted child can inherit from his biological parent under intestate succession, but loses the ability to inherit other various death benefits.

If you are considering stepparent adoption, contact an experienced family law and adoption attorney at The Texas Divorce Lawyer (214) 265-7630.