Today, I would like to continue discussing an important topic related to family law: adoption. If you are interested in going back to yesterday's blog post to read what we posted on this subject at that time, I will endorse that choice wholeheartedly.
With that said, let's examine some of the more essential and fundamental tidbits of knowledge that I believe you ought to possess if you are beginning to explore the possibility of adoption to grow your family.
Do you need to get a court order to adopt a child?
The approval of a family law judge in the county where you or the child you are adopting resides is necessary, yes. This is true whether you are going through a state agency or a private adoption method. An extensive background check of you and anyone else living in your household will be done, and a review of your physical home by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (TDFPS). All in all, the process can take months, if not longer, to complete due to the state needing to ensure that you are an appropriate person to adopt a child.
What if the biological mother wants to withdraw her permission for you to adopt a child from her?
A mother can revoke her consent to allow you to adopt her child after the child is born. She does not have long to wait after the child's birth to do so, however. If she tells you that she is OK with the adoption during this short time, it becomes nearly impossible for her to revoke her consent in the future. She would have to show that she only agreed to the adoption due to fraud or coercion- both of which are unlikely to have occurred.
How could fraud or duress have occurred during the adoption process? For starters, fraud or coercion could have happened if your attorney or the adoption agency lied to her about some aspect of the adoption process. Suppose someone told the mother that she would be ostracized or humiliated in some way if she decided to withdraw her consent to the adoption; it could be construed that she had been under the influence of duress at the time her license was given.
It is usual for a biological mother to have feelings of attachment and love towards the child she gave birth to. As a father, there is nothing like the feeling of seeing your child born. I can only imagine how a birth mother feels in this exact situation. However, seeing the birth of her child and having a change of heart regarding her willingness to consent to the adoption is usually not enough to have the adoption not go through as previously agreed.
If you are a biological father, is your consent necessary to have your child be given up for adoption?
If you are a biological father of a child who has the potential of being given up for adoption, then your consent is necessary for this process to proceed. The only exception is in a situation where your identity is not known. In adoption cases, an attorney ad item is sometimes assigned to an issue with the sole purpose of locating the father of the child if his identity is not known at the beginning of the adoption proceedings.
If you, as the biological father, are located as a result of the efforts of the attorney ad item, you will need to be notified of the birth of your child and the status of the adoption case that is pending in court. At this point, you will be able to make an appearance into the matter and then either consent to the adoption or oppose the process altogether. Should the ad item attorney not locate you and obtain your license, you will have six months to file a motion to reopen the adoption after it is approved.
Stepparent adoption in Texas
As the family's makeup has changed in recent years, stepparent adoptions are increasingly common. If you are the parent to a child and re-marries someone after divorcing your child's other biological parent, your new spouse can adopt your child. You will either need the child's other biological parent to be declared unfit and have their parental rights terminated, or the other parent must consent to the adoption. Either of these things occurring is unlikely, at least from my experiences.
If you are a child's stepparent and can adopt your stepchild, they are no longer your stepchild but your legal child. If you and the child's biological parent divorce, the adoption is valid and unaffected by the divorce. You would go through the custody, possession, and visitation process of divorce just as any other parent would.
Paternity cases in Texas
If you are a father to a child and are not married to the child's mother, you can be forced by a court to contribute to the child's financial well-being that you created. The fact is that as a parent, you must support your child. You should sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) if you are willing to state that you are the child's father.
If you do not admit to the child's paternity, the child's mother may file a lawsuit seeking to determine who the biological father of her child is. If a judge rules that you are the child's father during the civil case, you will be on the hook for child support. I have even seen judges rule that a newly determined father must pay childbirth expenses included bills from the hospital and follow-up care with her obstetrician.
Finally, you may be reading this blog post about a married man whose wife is either pregnant or has given birth to a child that you do not believe to be yours. The law in Texas presumes that this child is yours based on your marriage to the child's mother. Unless you can prove in court that you are not the child's biological father, you must provide support and care for the child just as any other father would a child.
If you suspect abuse or neglect of a child, do you have a duty to report this to Child Protective Services (CPS)?
The law in Texas holds that certain persons in certain situations must report allegations of abuse or neglect of a child to CPS. Doctors, nurses, social workers, child care providers, and teachers are included in this list of people. There are both civil and criminal penalties to face if you do not do as the law requires.CPS and DFPS offer a hotline to make anonymous reports of abuse or neglect. All accounts must be looked into, and CPS must investigate credible reports. A CPS investigation will either result in a finding of abuse or neglect of a child by a parent or other adult or will be closed out after no determination was made. This can be due to insufficient evidence to create a finding or because there is no reason to believe that abuse or neglect occurred despite a full range of evidence.
Divorce essentials- tomorrow's blog post topic
If you are interested in learning some of the most basic and essential attributes of divorce in Texas, then tune in tomorrow as we walk you through this subject.
Any questions about the information that we covered today can be addressed to one of the licensed family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week.