Stepparent Adoption in Texas: Answers to Common Questions
This article answers frequently asked questions about stepparent adoption in Texas.
File the adoption case in either of the following courts in the county where the child lives or where the petitioners (the adults filing the case) live:
- District court, or
- Statutory county court with jurisdiction over family law cases
Read the law here: Texas Family Code § 103.001(b).
There are two ways to start a stepparent adoption case, depending on whether a parent-child relationship exists between the child and the child’s other parent (that is not married to the stepparent):
- If the child’s other parent is alive and there is no court order of termination of parental rights between the child and the child’s other parent, file an Original Petition to Terminate Parent-Child Relationship and for Adoption.
- If the child’s other parent is deceased or there is a court order of termination of parental rights between the child and the child’s other parent, file an Original Petition for Adoption.
Note: TexasLawHelp.org does not provide stepparent adoption forms. Talk with a family law lawyer for help starting a stepparent adoption case.
YES! You can hire a family law lawyer just to give you advice, provide you forms, review your forms, or help you prepare for the adoption hearing. You may then be able to handle the other parts of your stepparent adoption case yourself. Hiring a lawyer for a limited purpose is called “limited scope representation.”
You may also be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic. If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:
Yes. When you file for termination and adoption or for adoption, you must usually pay a filing fee. The fee varies by county. Contact the district clerk’s office or the statutory county court with jurisdiction over family law cases in the court where you will file the adoption case to learn the fees.
If you don’t have enough money to pay the fees, you can ask a judge to waive the fees by completing and filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs. Read this short article to learn more: Court Fees & Fee Waivers.
There are two petitioners:
- The child’s stepparent asking the court for the adoption order, and
- The stepparent’s spouse (the child’s parent whose rights will not be terminated).
Note: Even though the child’s parent that is married to the stepparent already has a parent-child relationship with the child, the law says that the stepparent’s spouse must also join in the adoption case as a petitioner.
The child’s other parent (if living) whose parental rights will be terminated, and anyone with a court-ordered relationship with the child.
Note: If the child’s only living parent (other than the stepparent’s spouse) has already had his or rights terminated, then the child’s other parent is not listed as a respondent in the adoption case.
Yes. Stepparent adoptions in Texas require an order terminating parental rights between the child to be adopted and the parent of the child that is not the stepparent’s spouse. The stepparent’s spouse (the child’s other parent) will join as a petitioner in the adoption case and will not have his or her parental rights terminated.
Note: If the child needs an order of termination of parental rights before the child is eligible to be adopted, the courts allow the termination and adoption cases to be filed together as one case. The termination and adoption happen in the same court hearing. Talk with a family law lawyer about what is needed for your case.
Yes. Both of the petitioners and the child to be adopted (if the child is 12 years of age or older) must go to court for the adoption hearing.
Note: If you can show it would be “unduly difficult” for one of the joint petitioners to attend the court hearing, the court may waive the requirement for one of the petitioners to attend the hearing if the other petitioner can attend. The court may also waive the requirement that a child 12 years of age or older must attend, if waiving the requirement is in the “best interest” of the child. Read the law here: Tex. Family Code § 162.014.
If the child is 12 years of age or older, the child must consent to the adoption in writing or in court. Read the law here: Tex. Family Code § 162.010(c).
Note: The court may waive this requirement if it would “serve the child’s best interest.”
A stepparent adoption (or a combined termination and adoption case):
- Terminates the parent-child relationship between the child and the child’s other parent
- Can terminate any other court-ordered relationship over the child
- Makes the adopted child the son or daughter of the stepparent
- Creates the child’s right to inherit from the stepparent
- Note: The termination and adoption can either cut off the child’s right to inherit from or through the adopted child’s other biological parent or the child’s right to inherit can remain in place.
- Can change the adopted child’s name (if requested)
The law says that a child must live with the petitioner for at least six months before the court may grant an adoption. However, an exception applies if the petitioner asks the court to waive this requirement and find that this requirement is not in the child’s best interest. Read the law here: Tex. Family Code § 162.009.
No. Adoption requires the court to make several findings:
- First, the child must be eligible to be adopted by having the child’s other parent’s parental rights terminated (if the child’s other parent is alive and has not already had his or her parental rights terminated by court order). For more information on termination of parental rights, read: FAQS – Terminating Parental Rights.
- Next, a judge must find the requirements for adoption have been satisfied and filed with the court. Some of the requirements include (there may be others particular to your case or ordered by your court):
- An adoption evaluation.
- Note: Some courts require the adoption evaluation to be completed by a person from the court’s list. Check with the clerk of the court if this is a local rule of your court.
- The results of the criminal history reports of the petitioners.
- A signed and verified affidavit concerning compliance (or noncompliance if it doesn’t apply) of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.
- Depending on the circumstances of your case and the parties’ interests, the court may require:
- The appointment of an attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, or amicus attorney. Read the law here: Tex. Family Code § 107.021.
- A child custody evaluation. Read the law here: Tex. Family Code § 107.103. Talk with a family law lawyer familiar with the court where you will file the adoption petition about the likelihood of this being required in your case.
- An adoption evaluation.
- Finally, the judge must find that the adoption is in the “best interest” of the child.