What Are Parental Rights?

Parental rights are the legal rights parents have over their children, including the right to make decisions concerning their health, education, and general welfare. The provisions also include the right to have legal and physical custody, the right to visitation, the right to enter contracts on behalf of the children, and the right to pass property to the children, as well as the duty to support them.

Understanding parental rights is crucial to exercising parental authority over your children, whether biological or non-biological. An excellent starting point would be to consult experienced lawyers from a reputable family law firm in San Antonio.

Do Non-Biological Parents Have Parental Rights?

Non-biological parents often face various challenges in establishing their parental rights. Fortunately, the law allows them to claim and establish rights over their non-biological children through court-guided procedures. Consult skilled San Antonio step-parent adoption lawyers if you’re a non-biological parent seeking parental rights.

They can guide you from a legal perspective and provide insights on the steps you can take. For example, if you’re a stepfather who has acted as the child’s father since birth, you can request a family court to grant you parental rights over the child. With full parental rights over the child, you can have custody and visitation rights. However, keep in mind that in order to adopt, usually the biological father’s rights must be terminated, which will require either his cooperation or a contested lawsuit with proof that this is in the best interests of the child.

How Do Courts Protect the Parental Rights of Non-Biological Parents?

Most states have second-parent adoption laws that allow non-biological parents to adopt a child, whether or not they are married to the biological parent. After completing the adoption, the non-biological parent gains the same full legal rights as the other parent. In Texas, you can gain parental rights through step-parent adoption.

For the most favorable outcome, working with experienced San Antonio step-parent adoption attorneys would be best. In addition to helping you with the complex legal paperwork and presenting evidence in court, they can also help you understand parental rights and responsibilities, enabling you to make informed decisions.

What are Step-Parent Adoptions in San Antonio?

If you’re a step-parent who is married to the biological parent of your children, you can seek to adopt the children by filing an adoption petition with the court. Skilled step-parent adoption lawyers in San Antonio can help you provide the proper notice to the biological parent and create a solid case to prove that adoption is in the children’s best interests.

In Texas, any adult who is the step-parent of a child younger than 18 can file a joint step-parent adoption case with the child’s biological parent. The process requires an order terminating the other child’s parent’s parental rights, who is not the step-parent’s spouse. The step-parent’s spouse should be a co-petitioner in the adoption case with the step-parent, and that parent’s rights would not be terminated.

What are the Requirements for Step-Parent Adoptions?

According to Texas Family Code 162.009, you must live with the children you intend to adopt for at least six months before the court may grant an adoption. If the child or children are above 12 years, they must consent to the adoption by testifying in court or writing. A child who is ten years or older must also consent to having their name changed if the adoption leads to that.

However, step-parent adoptions are not always automatically granted, as the process requires the court to make multiple findings. For example:

  • The court must find the children eligible to be adopted by having the other parent’s rights terminated. This requires a lawsuit against the other parent and opportunity for them to object.
  • Your criminal record must be clean
  • You must provide your official fingerprint record
  • You must undergo an adoption evaluation
  • You must sign a verified affidavit about compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children

The court may also require several other things depending on the case specifics. Work with experienced step-parent adoption lawyers in San Antonio to help you understand the legal requirements of the adoption process.

What Factors Do Courts Consider in Granting Parental Rights to a Non-Biological Parent?

Before a judge can make the final ruling when considering a parental rights case, it must consider several factors concerning the children’s best interests. That means deciding what is most appropriate for a particular child’s needs. San Antonio step-parent adoption attorneys highlight some factors that courts consider:

  • The age of the children
  • The emotional, physical, and social needs of the children
  • Whether there is evidence of abuse or domestic violence against the children
  • The age, physical, and mental health of the child’s biological parents
  • How well the petitioner can provide for the child, including emotional, medical, and financial needs
  • The children’s relationship with the petitioner
  • The child’s wishes if they are mature enough

Can a Biological Parent Terminate a Non-Biological Parent’s Parental Rights?

The process of obtaining or terminating parental rights is highly complex, primarily because the court must be involved and the law presumes all biological parents are fit parents unless proven otherwise. As a non-biological parent, you have no legal rights until a court determines that you should have such rights and that would require a court order with the consent of any biological parent whose rights have not been terminated. If the parent who previously agreed that the non-biological parent should have parental rights now requests the court to terminate those rights, they must file suit to show a significant change in circumstances since the last court order. If the court agrees to the petition and schedules a hearing for the case, the biological parent may present arguments and evidence that support their claims.

However, just because the other party can prove they are the biological parent to your children doesn’t mean your parental rights will be terminated. For example, it may not be in the children’s best interests to terminate your parental rights if you can prove that you have been a more parental figure to the children than their biological parent. Once your parental rights have been established by court order, the presumption applies that you are a good parent until proven otherwise.

Adopting an Adult Child
If the biological parent will not consent and is blocking your attempt to adopt an older step-child, one alternative to consider is to wait until the child reaches age 18. At that point, as a legal adult, the adult child may consent to the adoption without the biological parent’s consent.

A Skilled Family Law Attorney Helping You Secure Your Non-Biological Parental Rights

If you are married to a partner with children from a previous marriage, you may wish to secure your parental rights to have a say over their welfare and upbringing. Establishing parental rights is a legal process that requires you to file a petition in court and meet various requirements. Experienced step-parent adoption attorneys in San Antonio, Texas can guide you adequately.

Laura D. Heard Law Firm Inc. is a family law firm with knowledgeable step-parent adoption lawyers. We can review your case and work to simplify it, striving to do what is in the best interest of your children. Call us at 210-775-0353 to schedule a case assessment.