Stepparent Adoption in Texas – Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Adoption by a Stepparent

Stepparent adoptions are very common, in Texas and throughout the United States. Statistics are not readily available, but it is fair to say that more than one-third (and closer to one-half) of all Texas adoptions are stepparent adoptions. The stepparent adoption process in Texas can be easy and straightforward or difficult and wrought with conflict. It all depends on the circumstances of the adults involved.

  • The new stepparent just signs an adoption form and that’s it, right?
  • No. A child cannot have three parents. In order for a stepparent to adopt a child, one of the
    child’s biological parents must relinquish his or her parental rights. To make this article easier
    to read, let’s assume a situation in which a mother marries a man who wants to adopt the
    mother’s child, who has a different father.

  • How does a parent relinquish parental rights?
  • A parent can relinquish his rights voluntarily, or they can be removed from him involuntarily.
    Generally speaking, a Texas family court will not accept a voluntary relinquishment of parental
    rights unless a stepparent is waiting to adopt.

  • How can someone have parental rights terminated involuntarily?

    Texas law states several grounds under which parental rights can be involuntarily terminated:

    • The parent leaves the child alone or with someone other than the child’s other parent
      and states an intention not to return;
    • The parent leaves the child alone or with someone other than the child’s other parent,
      does not express an intent to return, does not provide enough support for the child in
      his or her absence, and is gone for at least three months;
    • The parent leaves the child with another – including with the other parent – and does not
      provide adequate support of the child and remains away for at least six months;
    • The parent puts the child in physical or emotional danger;
    • The parent fails to pay child support according to financial ability for a period of one year; and/or
    • The parent is convicted of a crime and goes to jail for at least two years.
  • If the parent voluntarily gives up parental rights, then what?
  • Then the stepparent and biological parent file a joint petition for the stepparent to adopt the
    child. In Texas, if the child is older than 12, he or she must give written consent to the
    adoption. There will be a short hearing, at which the judge will sign the papers formalizing the
    adoption. From that point forward, the stepparent has all the legal rights and obligations as if
    he was the child’s biological parent.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes a general guide to stepparent adoptions that nicely summarizes the legal issues and steps to take.

Contact Kevin Buchanan for Answers to Questions About Stepparent Adoptions

Attorney Kevin Buchanan is a Dallas lawyer offering family law clients a skillful and experienced attorney who places a strong emphasis on fairness, and on treating all clients with dignity and respect. If you have questions about stepparent adoption or termination of parental rights, he would be pleased to review your circumstances and offer an opinion. To schedule a private consultation, fill out the online intake form or call (214) 378-9500.


About the Firm

Kevin Buchanan & Associates, P.L.L.C., are a Dallas based civil litigation firm that handles a variety of cases, including personal injury, product liability, and business disputes in many jurisdictions throughout the United States.

Our firm recently negotiated a $1.25 million dollar settlement for the family of a man who died as a result of a head-on collision with a wrong-way driver.

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