One of the most important steps in a stepparent adoption is the termination of the parental rights of the other biological parent. In some instances, the other parent agrees to terminate his or her rights voluntarily.
If the other parent refuses a voluntary termination, the adoptive parent can petition the court for an involuntary termination. However, the court can only terminate parental rights when there are grounds to do so. There are broad federal requirements for involuntarily terminating parental rights, and each state also has more specific statutes.
Under the Adoption and Safe Families Act, the federal government requires state agencies to file a petition to terminate parental rights when a parent has committed a violent felony against the child or another child of the other parent that resulted in serious bodily injury or death. State agencies must also file a petition for termination of parental rights if the child is an abandoned infant or has been in foster care for 15 of the previous 22 months.
Texas state law goes beyond the federal requirements to describe much more detailed grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights. In addition to abandonment of the child or conviction of a crime causing death or serious injury to a child or to the other parent, the list of grounds that may result in an involuntary termination include the following:
- Causing a child to have an addiction at birth
- Being unable to care for the child for two years due to incarceration
- Preventing the child from enrolling in school
- Failing to support the child for one year
- Having had parental rights terminated with respect to another child
With a stepparent adoption, termination of parental rights affects only one biological parent. In a grandparent adoption, termination of the parental rights of both biological parents must take place.