“Step parent adoption” is the term used when a person adopts the child of their spouse. “Second parent adoption” a term that is commonly used to refer to a situation where a partner in a same sex relationship adopts the child/ children of their partner. You may hear the terms “second parent adoption” and “same sex adoption” used interchangeably.
In Texas, the law states that a person must have “standing” to file an adoption case. Step parents do have legal standing to file a suit to adopt a child. Marriage of two years or more is most favorably looked upon by the courts. This is all true for heterosexual couples as well.
There often needs to be a termination of parental rights as part of adoption suit. For instance, there may be a biological parent who is not involved with the child, but is still the legal parent of the child, or has a potential claim to parental rights regarding the child.
In the case of a donor or surrogacy situation that is arranged by a licensed medical facility, assuming all is done according to proper procedure, there will generally be no parental rights established under Texas law. But sometimes there is a private arrangement between friends. In this case, there will have to be a termination of parental rights by a Texas court if that has not already been done.
If there are any potential unknown fathers (a case when a women is pregnant but may not be sure who the biological father is), or a “legal father” (a woman has a child while still legally married to a man who is not the biological father), the parental rights of these people will need to be legally terminated.
It is important to understand that in Texas all existing and potential paternal rights will need to be accounted for and dealt with legally before an adoption can be granted.
It is also important to note that any married person in Texas attempting to adopt a child must have the participation of their spouse in that adoption.
Once an adoption is filed with the court, a court-approved Texas social worker will be appointed to make a home study in the case. This happens even if the adopting parent has been there since day one of conception. That social worker will meet with the parents and examine the home and make a recommendation about the adoption to the court.
In addition, the judge MAY appoint an attorney specifically to represent the interests of the child, but that does not always happen. This is up to the judge.
When it comes to family law, there are differences in the law and procedures from state to state. Different counties/parishes have slightly different procedures from each other. Finally, each Judge has preferences and certain authority to determine how things are done in his/her courtroom.
This area of law is relatively new, and it is not uncommon to find that some attorneys, courts and court staff are not yet experienced with this particular type of case.
If you and your spouse have been thinking of filing a step parent adoption, the first step is to have a legal consultation with an adoption attorney who is familiar with the laws are procedures. You should gather any relevant documents (a copy of your marriage license, child’s birth certificate, paperwork from fertility institute or private contracts).
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