The adoption process can be a very emotional experience for everyone involved. You may be feeling excited, anxious, or unsure about what steps to take next. The attorneys at The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, are here to answer all your questions and walk you through the process.
The term "adoption" covers many situations and areas of law. Some areas that might be of particular concern to your family include:
Adopting a child can be a fairly long and complicated process. If you are interested in adopting a child, or are considering placing your child up for adoption, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately to discuss your options and rights.
Houston Adoption Attorneys
If you are in the greater Houston area, including Harris, Fort Bend, Grimes, Waller, and Washington counties, and you are thinking about adopting a child or placing your child up for adoption, or you are facing a suit to terminate the parent-child relationship with your child, contact The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, for a consultation today. Our Houston Family Law attorneys are experienced with handling adoption and are ready to work closely with your family to achieve your adoption goals.
What Adoption Means
When you legally adopt a child, an adoption decree will be entered by the court. This decree says that a parent-child relationship exists between the adoptive parents and the child, the same as if the child was born to the parents.
Any adult, single or married, can adopt a child, as long as the court finds that the adoption is in the child’s best interests. If you are married, both spouses must join in the adoption.
Except in very limited circumstances involving Native American children, the courts may not discriminate based on race or ethnicity of the child or the parents. Usually a parent of any race can adopt a child of any race, as long as the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
When a Child May Be Adopted
A child may be adopted if:
- Both of the child’s natural parents have died OR
- The parent-child relationship with both parents has been terminated OR
- A step-parent (spouse of a natural parent) wants to adopt the child
A former step-parent may also adopt a child, if
- The child is at least two years old,
- The parent-child relationship has been terminated with at least one natural parent
- The former step-parent has been named the child’s Managing Conservator, or has had possession of the child for a certain amount of time
For example, if a step-parent is raising a child after the child’s natural parent (the step-parent’s spouse) has died, the step parent may be able to legally adopt the child, as long as the child is over two years old and certain criteria are met.
You should discuss the specifics of your situation with your lawyer, who will help you decide if adoption is an option for your family, and what steps you need to take next.
Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship
In many cases, the child being adopted has living natural parents. The parent-child relationship between the child and these parents will need to be terminated before the child can be adopted. The termination process can be a very emotional experience for the parents and child involved. Our attorneys are here to help you understand the process and to protect your rights.
Voluntary Termination During Pregnancy
The parent-child relationship may be terminated voluntarily by an unmarried pregnant woman. Many women choose this route to allow the child to be adopted soon after they are born. An unwed mother may file her petition to terminate her rights as a parent anytime after her first trimester of pregnancy. A hearing will be held on her petition at least five days after the child is born, giving the mother the chance to change her mind. If the mother does not wish to go to court, Texas law allows for her to file an affidavit instead, forty-eight hours or more after the child is born. This affidavit is still revocable for ten days, giving her another opportunity to change her mind. Both adult and teenage mothers may sign these affidavits.
Of course, the rights of the father must also be addressed in the termination. These men have the option of signing an Affidavit of Waiver of Interest, which is irrevocable. It basically says that the man does not believe he is the father, and will not be involved in any further proceedings.
If you are unmarried and facing an unplanned pregnancy, and you’re interested in adoption, contact us today for a consultation to discuss your rights and goals.
Involuntary termination of the parent-child relationship may be appropriate where a parent acts in a way that is harmful to a child. Involuntary termination can only take place when it is in the best interest of the child AND certain grounds for termination are met. These grounds for termination include:
- Neglect, such as failure to properly feed or clothe the child
- Abuse, including allowing the child to remain in an abusive situation
- Parental Misconduct, such as failing to enroll the child in school
- Use of drugs or alcohol that endangers the child
- Failure to support the child for more than one year
- Imprisonment for more than two years
- Certain other grounds, including serious emotional or mental illness that makes the parent unable to care for the child
An involuntary termination proceeding is very complex and the courts are required to take certain steps to protect the rights of the parents and child. If you are facing an involuntary termination proceeding, or you believe that the grounds for involuntary termination apply to you or someone in your family, you should contact a lawyer immediately.
The Rights of Fathers
Fathers have the same right to their children as mothers. A father has the right to challenge the adoption of his child, and has a right to protection where their relationship with their child is being terminated involuntarily.
If you are married and your wife has a baby, you are presumed to be the child’s father. You will also be presumed to be the child’s father if you are listed on the birth certificate, or if you live with the child for the first two years of its life and tell others it’s your own. But what if you don’t do any of those things, but you believe you may have fathered a child?
Many men do not know that The State of Texas maintains a paternity registry. This registry allows men to assume responsibility for children they may have fathered out of wedlock. Filing with this registry protects your right to be involved in legal proceedings regarding your children. Perhaps more importantly, failure to register may terminate your parental rights.
If you believe you may have fathered a child and want more information regarding your responsibility to the child, or how to waive your rights to the child, you should contact one of our Houston Family Law attorneys for a consultation.
The Adoption Process
Once the parental rights of the natural parents have been terminated, the formal adoption process may begin.
The court will order a pre-adoptive social study. During this study, a social worker will come to your home to check on the conditions the child will be living in. This study must take place before the child will be placed in the home, and the adoptive parents pay for the study.
After the child is placed in the home, another study is usually conducted, to give the court a clear picture of what the child’s home life will be like with the new family.
The child cannot be formally adopted until he or she has lived with the adoptive parents for six months. This requirement may be waived if it’s in the child’s best interest.
If the child is over age 12, he or she will have to consent to the adoption. However, this requirement can also be waived, if it’s in the child’s best interest.
In most cases, a report will be filed by the person or agency placing the child up for adoption. This report contains important information regarding the child’s social history (such as relationship with siblings), health, educational history, genetics (such as ethnic background, or the cause of death of ancestors), and history of child abuse. An edited version of this report is given to the adoptive parents.
The adoption suit takes place in court, in the county where the child lives or the adoptive parents live. The judge will decide whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child, based in part on the social study. The child and adoptive parents are usually entitled to be in court.
Once the adoption decree is entered, the parent-child relationship between the adopted parents and the child is established.
The Rights of Adopted Children
Once the adopted child is an adult, he or she has certain rights. These rights include:
- The right to see a summary of the Social, Health, Educational and Genetic History report
- The right to register with a voluntary registry to find its natural parents and/or siblings
- In many cases, the right to inherit property from his natural parents
However, in Texas, adoption records are usually sealed, and the child does not have the right to see those records.
If you were adopted as a child you should contact an attorney to learn more about your right to access to your biological parents and adoption information.
Most people do not know that Texas law allows for one adult to adopt another adult. This is usually done for inheritance purposes. An adult adoptee can inherit through his adopted parents, but not his natural parents. The natural parents also cannot inherit from the adopted adult.
Because adults usually know what’s in their best interest, the court does not decide if the adoption is in the adoptee’s best interest. All an adult adoptee must do is consent to the adoption before a notary public.
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Adoption in Texas: Essential information that you need to know
- How can a step parent adopt their step child in Texas?
- How can parental rights be terminated in Texas?
- Termination of Parental Rights and an MSA in Texas
- Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Texas
- Relinquishment and Termination of Parental Rights in Texas
- Terminating Parental Rights in Texas on the Absent Parent
- Voluntarily Relinquishing Your Parental Rights in Texas
- What rights does a father have in Texas?
- Fathers' Rights: Children Born Out of Wedlock in Texas?
- Adopting an adult in Texas
- Advice for adopting your stepchild in Texas
- How can a step parent adopt their step child in Texas?
- Basic Information about Step Parent adoption in Texas