What does it take to adopt a child in Texas?

Have you and your spouse been trying to have kids for years with no success? Are you a stepparent who wants to formally adopt your stepchild? What about an adult who wants to start a family all your own? Adoption is one route for you to consider. However, like any legal process, there are steps that you need to follow to successfully adopt a child. With so many questions and a limited amount of time, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by everything.

Please allow today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to be your guide into the world of adopting a child in Texas. Your circumstances may be unique but your motivation in adopting a child revolves around love. That is one thing that draws together all adoptive parents and potential adoptive parents. Translating that love into an actionable plan is what we will cover today.

What is adoption?

Like all issues in Texas family law, adoption is within the Texas Family Code. An adoption creates a parent-child relationship between the adoptive parent and the adoptive child. By adopting a child, you take on the same care, custody, and access rights as a biological parent. It is a huge responsibility to adopt a child, as you know. You are telling the court and the State of Texas that you are up to the challenge of caring for that child’s well-being and providing for the child’s life in all areas.

File a petition to adopt in the county where the child resides or where you reside. The petition needs to include a statement that the court you filed the case must have jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the right for that court to issue rulings and hear evidence. This is a crucial aspect of adoption. Have questions about this subject? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan for assistance in learning more about this critical area of adoption law.

Does your spouse need to be a part of the adoption case?

One of the most common questions that our attorneys are asked in a free-of-charge consultation on adoption is whether their spouse must participate in the case. Not that your spouse would not be on board with the idea of adopting a child. The question comes down to whether your spouse must participate in the lawsuit by being a named party. The answer in Texas is that, yes, your spouse must be a part of the adoption case as a named party. After the adoption case is filed if you were to get divorced the case is dismissed unless you or your spouse amends the petition to one of your names as a single adult.

Background information for an adoption

Obtain your criminal history report at the beginning of the adoption. This involves both you and your spouse obtaining your criminal history report. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is one place where you can obtain a report.

The conducting of social studies comes about as a result of an adoption case being filed. A social study is where a social worker or other person from the State of Texas will come to your home. The state employee reviews your home for its suitability for child placement. Any issues with the home itself as far as repairs are discussed with you. The nature of your relationship with your spouse and any other person who lives in the home is also an issue during a home inspection. Inspections occur both before and after child placment.

Importantly, an order terminating parental rights is filed along with these other documents. If you are a stepparent who is adopting your stepchild an order terminating parental rights needs to be filed. Or, you need to seek termination of parental rights first and then begin the adoption process.

Adopting a child from another country

Suppose that you are going to a foreign country and adopting a child from that country. The adoption would be in the legal system of the native country of your adoptive child. The documents and orders received from that country are treated under Texas law as being the same as if the state of Texas had issued them.

File your order obtained from a foreign government certifying the adoption with the State of Texas. Common petitions filed once your child arrives in the United States are to change your child’s name and to register the foreign adoption. So long as the foreign court or government’s order does not violate the principles of human rights or the laws/public policy of Texas the state registrar will register the order and file for a new birth certificate for the child.

Holding a hearing- who needs to be there?

There are two types of hearings in Texas civil cases. The first is an uncontested hearing. This is a hearing where your opposing party dos does not contest the issues presented in that hearing. Or you have filed a lawsuit of some type that does not have an opposing party. In any event, these are the types of hearings that tend to go more smoothly.

In an uncontested hearing, you and your spouse need to attend along with any caseworker assigned to assist in your adoption. Any person appointed by the court to act as their eyes and ears during the adoption like a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) attend as well.

In a contested adoption the hearings become more complex. You and your spouse will need to attend the hearing as does the caseworker from the State of Texas. However, an attorney for the agency involved in the adoption case will attend, as well. A CASA representative, any party contesting the adoption and all your attorneys will all attend.

More information on a home study

An adoption home study takes place as one of the first steps in an adoption case. Even though the home study takes place at the beginning of adoption it is still one of the most important parts of your case. When the home study is complete your family becomes an adoptive family candidate. Or, if you have found a child to adopt already that child can potentially begin to live with you.

A home study is not only about the actual home where you and your family live. Rather, the home study provides an overview of your entire life. You meet with a social worker and begin the study. Prepare for the home study by having documents ready to present to him or her. The criminal background checks that you obtained should be ready to go for him or her on this date. You may also be able to email those forms to the case worker before the home study takes place.

Interviews also take place where you and your spouse are going to be questioned about your lives, your work, and your ability to parent a child. The state of Texas will assess your suitability for child placement and whether you are ready to take on the large responsibility of raising a child together with your spouse. An assessment of your home environment occurs. If your home is not in good shape, it is a good idea to upgrade or fix any problems. Many families also struggle with converting a “grown-up only” home into a more “kid-friendly” home. Talk with your adoption agency or counselor about how to make this transition.

Working with an attorney helps prepare for a home study

There is a lot to keep track of during the adoption process. Even in this short blog post, we have covered many steps geared toward helping you adopt your future child. Do not underestimate the stress and anxiety that comes with this process. Even the most prepared and well-put-together families can struggle with everything that comes with the adoption process. Where are you able to reach out for help in a situation involving divorce?

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you. Having an attorney guide you during this process is to your advantage. Our attorneys know the process involved with adoption and how to manage it with clients. We know how to advocate for clients in contested adoptions. Skilled at communicating with adoption agencies as well as the State of Texas is the takeaway clients have with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Helping you stay organized with your paperwork is a major part of a divorce. Not having the right documents ready and at the right time presents a major issue for families like yours. Delays cost time, and money and can cause you to lose out on the opportunity to adopt a child. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan has a proven track record of helping families in your position.

How long can you expect the adoption process to last?

The length of time you can expect your adoption to take depends upon the type of adoption you are involved with. There are two ways to adopt a child in Texas. The first is to adopt an infant through an adoption agency. The second is to adopt an older child who lives in foster care currently. Learning the difference between the two is crucial to your success in being able to adopt a child.

Adopting a child takes up to one year for most prospective parents. Adopting an infant child in the United States presents you with a straightforward process to follow. We have already covered how a home study is step one of the processes. A home is typically conducted by a social worker and does not wrap up overnight by any means. Most home studies in an adoption setting take anywhere from two to three months to complete. The more on the ball you are with completing paperwork and making sure all steps are complete, the shorter this step in the process takes.

An adoption agency helps many parents reduce the amount of time they need to wait for this stage of the process to complete itself. The more people you choose to work with the more inroads you have with the mothers of an infant you want to adopt. The adoption process costs money. You are essentially advertising yourself to these mothers which takes time and money.

What happens after you are selected as an adoptive parent

The mother and baby you are matched up with will determine how long the rest of the adoption process takes. For some women who are only a month or two along in their pregnancy, the process takes much longer. On the other hand, your child’s biological mother may be near-term and ready to give birth soon. The period between the placement of your child in the home and the finalization of the adoption process is usually around six months.

What about adopting a child out of foster care?

Another option to consider is to adopt a child who is living in foster care. Growing your family this way provides a great benefit not only to you and your spouse but also to your child. When a child cannot be reunited with their birth family then an adoption out of foster care is possible. You may also choose to become a foster family in hopes of adopting the child(ren) if they cannot be returned to their birth families.

Issues for post-adoptive families

Congratulations! You have successfully adopted a child. Your family is complete. Now you are concerned with some “side” issues that need to be dealt with now that the major issue of completing the adoption is over with. Parents wishing to obtain a new birth certificate based on the adoption of their child can contact the Vital Statistics Department of the State of Texas. Note that the state of Texas can only process birth certificate requests for adoptive children and parents of children who were born in Texas. This is true even if the adoption takes place in another state.

To obtain a new birth certificate from the state of Texas, you need to work with your attorney and the district clerk of your county to submit a certificate of adoption that is certified by the district clerk’s office. Additionally, the certified copy of the final decree of adoption and any attached court orders also need to be sent to the state of Texas.

From there, an employee with the state will look at your application. Working with an experienced family law attorney and this type of case is important period if your application is not completed correctly then it will be thrown out and you will need to start over. In any event, if your application is rejected then the state will contact you by letter and inform you of the reason for that rejection.

Filing a foreign adoption in Texas

As we discussed earlier in this blog post, you can adopt A child in a foreign country under whatever procedures that country has laid out for itself. However, once you return home to Texas you will want to file the adoption here. For starters, you need to have a certified copy of the decree of adoption that is granted in the foreign country. Your name, your spouse’s name, and the name of your child should be included in that decree. Depending on the adoption location you may need to have that decree translated into English.

From there, submit the decree to whatever court has jurisdiction over your child in the state of Texas for validation. Please note that it is your responsibility to have these documents translated before filing them with a Texas court. Once approved by the court, the clerk will send an official certificate of adoption to the vital statistics unit in Austin which validates your adoption.

Finally, the state of Texas will prepare a new birth certificate for your child who was born in a different country. This occurs once the state of Texas receives a request from you for a new birth certificate with your names included on it. All fees need to be paid and a certificate from the district clerk’s office will need to be obtained before this process begins.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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