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Adopting a child from a foreign country

An adoption order that is created in another country in regard to you adopting a child from that country is given as much weight and enforceability as an adoption order created in Texas. The only exception to this would be if the order’s contents goes against state law or violates a fundamental human right or public policy of the state.

If you adopt a foreign born child and your plan is to bring the child back to the United States you should petition your local court to have the foreign adoption order registered in Texas. A name change for the child can also be sought as well as the creation of a birth certificate. Again, unless the order violates state law or public policy it will be registered and made enforceable under Texas law.

Who needs to appear at an adoption hearing

There are two types of adoption hearings: contested and uncontested. In an uncontested adoption you, your attorney and any casewokers/ad litem attorneys assigned the State of Texas should attend. If a social study has been completed and recommends that you be able to adopt the child then the uncontested hearing is largely a formality in many regards so long as the judge finds that it is in the child’s best interests to be adopted by you.

On the other hand, in a contested divorce then you will need to attend along with the people listed above in addition to any party that contests your adoption of the child. If the child is in the temporary custody of the state and it is contesting the adoption a representative from the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will attend the hearing along with an agency attorney.

Keep in mind that if your adoption case is being contested that extra time will be allotted by your judge to have a full hearing that allows the issues to be presented and rulings made in response by the judge. A calendar or docket control order will be sent out to all parties by the court to inform you of a schedule and to prevent delays in the case.

On a happy note, most judges in Harris County will allow for a special ceremony of sorts at the final hearing that will confirm the adoption of your child by you. Judges who are usually reserved will allow the child (depending on their age) to bang the gavel, take photos on the bench and generally make a fun scene in commemoration of the event. Photos can be taken and a lively event will be had to celebrate the day.

In a step parent adoption what happens if a custodial parent does not agree to terminate their parental rights?

I met with a woman this past week regarding the issue of step parent adoption. She came in to talk to me about her husband being able to adopt the wife’s eight year old daughter. Apparently the child’s father has taken no interest in caring for or developing a relationship with the child. Furthermore, this mother didn’t even know where he was living. It seemed like an ideal scenario for a step-parent adoption and I told her as much.

When describing the adoption process I noted to her that the biological parent had to be tracked down and given the opportunity to agree to his parental rights being terminated. If he would not agree a hearing would be had on that subject in order to determine whether the father’s parental rights would in fact be terminated and whether the adoption could potentially proceed.

In the event that one of the legal/biological parents does not consent to their parental rights being terminated (usually an absentee parent as we saw in the above example) then you would have to have a full on, contested hearing on this subject. As the person who is petitioning the court to have the parent’s rights terminated, you must prove that he or she does not have an ongoing relationship with the child, nor does he or she have any plans to establish one.

Next, a judge will decide if it is in the best interests of the child for the parent’s rights to be terminated or whether the status quo should be maintained. If you find yourself in a situation like the mother in our example above and cannot locate your child’s other parent you may be able to give “constructive” notice of the lawsuit through posting notice in a newspaper or other publication. I must note, however, that it is strongly preferred by judges that you provide actual, in person service of the notice/citation of the lawsuit to the parent. If you show due diligence alternative methods of service can be approved.

The final word on this subject that I wanted to share is that a termination hearing can be stressful, contentious and among the more inhospitable experiences that you ever encounter in your life. The termination will be complete and final- there is no appeal available to either party.

Failure to support a child for at least a year can lead to termination of parental rights

Suppose that you are a mother whose ex-husband has not only failed to pay you child support for the past year but has also not taken advantage of any visitation time. As the child’s father has been completely out of his or her live for over a year it is possible that you can involuntarily terminate his parental rights after filing a petition. The law requires a parent to support their child financially and if your ex-spouse has failed to do so for a year or longer it is possible to have a hearing and present this information as evidence as to why his parental rights should be terminated.

When termination is contested in a situation like this you can additionally allege things like abuse or neglect of your child, the failure to pay child support for one year or greater or if the father has served time in prison for two or more years this can be presented as evidence of why the termination petition should be granted. If there is doubt as far as who the father of the child is and his identity continues to be unknown and his location is as well, this can be another method to terminate parental rights that can facilitate a step-parent adoption.

What happens after the adoption is granted?

If you have filed for the adoption of a child and that petition has been granted then you and your family can move forward into your next phase of life as a cohesive, legal unit. If you are a step-parent keep in mind that your adopting the child is permanent and cannot be undone in the event that you and the child’s biological parent divorce in the future. The law does not distinguish between you as the adoptive parent and the child’s biological parent. You have equal footing under the law. A new birth certificate should be obtained which bears the name of both you and your spouse.

You will have all of the rights and duties to make decisions as well as care for your child. Inheritance rights upon your death as well as social security survivor’s benefits will be available to your child now that you are legally their parent.

Seeking the advice of a family law attorney in regard to an adoption is a wise and prudent decision to make. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are equipped to help you just as we have done for thousands of southeast Texas families with family law issues of their own.

Questions about adoption? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you have any questions about the topics we covered today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We have experienced, licensed family law attorneys available to meet with you six days a week at no charge to you. Do not wonder about an outcome or guess at how a situation would turn out for you and your family. Speak to one of our attorneys today to gain helpful knowledge that can help you and your family.

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