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Adopting a child from a foreign country

An adoption order created in another country regarding 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 go against state law or violate a fundamental human right or public policy of the state.

If you adopt a foreign-born child and plan to bring the child back to the United States, you should petition your local court to register the foreign adoption order in Texas. A name change for the child can also be sought, and 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 caseworkers/ad litem attorneys assigned the State of Texas should attend. Suppose a social study has been completed and recommends adopting the child. In that case, the uncontested hearing is essentially a formality in many regards so long as the judge finds it in the child's best interests to be adopted by you.

On the other hand, in a contested divorce, you will need to attend along with the people listed above and any party that contests your adoption of the child. If the child is in the temporary custody of the state and 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, your judge will have extra time 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 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 your child's adoption 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.

What happens if a custodial parent does not agree to terminate their parental rights in a step-parent adoption?

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 adopting the wife's eight-year-old daughter. 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 that the biological parent had to be tracked down and allowed to agree to his parental rights being terminated. If he disagrees, a hearing would be had on that subject to determine whether the father's parental rights would be terminated and whether the adoption could potentially proceed.

If 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), you would have to have a full-on, contested hearing on this subject. As the person petitioning the court to have the parent's rights terminated, you must prove that they do not have an ongoing relationship with the child, nor do they plan to establish one.

Next, a judge will decide if it is in the child's best interests for the parent's rights to be terminated or whether the status quo should be maintained. Find yourself in a situation like a mother in our example above and cannot locate your child's other parent. You may be able to give "constructive" notice of the lawsuit by posting a notice in a newspaper or other publication. However, I must note that judges strongly prefer 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 have ever encountered 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 the 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 entirely out of their life 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. 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 of 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. Suppose there is doubt as far as who the child's father is and his identity continues to be unknown, and his location is. In that case, 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 if 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 an 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 and care for your child. Inheritance rights upon your death and 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 regarding 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 how a situation would turn out for you and your family. Please speak to one of our attorneys today to gain helpful knowledge to help you and your family.

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