If you are a Texas citizen and are interested in pursuing an adoption of a child who lives outside of the United States, then I would like to share with you some information on what you should expect. There are many issues that are associated with international adoptions that are not relevant in domestic adoptions. Most of these stem from immigration issues and being eligible to adopt the child from his or her native country. With these considerations in mind, it is recommended that you have an experienced family law attorney by your side to walk with you through this process.
Getting pre-approved to adopt a child who lives in another country is a key part of the international adoption process. Pre-approval means that you will be able to confirm ahead of time that you will be able to adopt a child from a specific country and then have that child return with you to the United States. Unfortunately, there can be a great deal of paperwork and red tape in between you and your future adoptive child. Getting pre-approved means that you will not have to worry about this paperwork being a barrier between you and the rest of your life.
In the time that it takes to get pre-approved (sometimes many months) you will be able to have identified a particular child that you want to adopt and then move forward without much to slow you down once the approval has occurred. The last thing you would want to do is to find a child, develop a relationship with him or her only to be told that you are not going to be able to bring that child home.
What happens in an international adoption once you have been pre-approved?
Getting pre-approved in international adoption will allow you to then identify a child to adopt. A licensed agency either in the United States or in a foreign country (or both) will work with you to choose a child and then travel to that country to visit. Every country on earth has a different process that you must go through to be able to adopt one of its citizens. Obviously, it would behoove you to speak with your attorney and an adoption agency from the country of your choice before engaging in the adoption process.
You must next get a visa lined up for the child in order so that he or she may travel to the United States. A petition would be filed with the federal government that makes them aware of the circumstances associated with your adoption and the reason why this child needs to be granted entry into the country. You will then adopt the child in his or her country of origin and then receive the visa to allow you to bring that child back with you to the United States.
Getting back to the pre-approval topic that we outlined at the outset of today’s blog post, this can really make the transition easier for you and the child. An investigation will be undertaken by the U.S. government to determine if the child is actually an orphan as you stated in your petition. If a visa is granted to your child he or she will then automatically become a citizen of the United States assuming that you have completed the adoption process. If that is yet to be completed then conferring citizenship status upon your child will need to wait until the adoption process is done here in the U.S.
Having an international adoption recognized by the State of Texas
In the event that you adopt a child in another country, you may want to have the State of Texas also approve and recognize the adoption once you are back in the United States. You would need to go through the courts in order to allow this to occur. The court would formally recognize that your foreign adoption is valid and would allow you to apply for a birth certificate for your child.
For some families, it is not always possible for you and your spouse to have seen the child prior to your adopting him or her. Or, your adoption could not occur in a foreign country. If you find yourself in one of these two situations then you should know that the adoption needs to be legally recognized in Texas for it to be officially concluded. Much of this process is a formality involving a post-adoption social study. This is where the court appoints a social worker to observe your interactions with the child, interview you and other adults in your family and to inspect your home to determine whether or not it is suitable for adoption.
Once this is all complete, you will then be able to complete your adoption. The birth certificate that we just finished discussing a moment ago can then be obtained as well as a certificate that declares your child to be a citizen of the United States. With all of the immigration components to international adoption, I cannot emphasize how important it is for you to be able to have an experienced attorney assist you with all of these steps.
Adopting a child from another state other than Texas
If you reside in Texas and the child you intend to adopt does not then you will need to follow the adoption guidelines as laid out in the Interstate Compact for adoption in the United States. These laws govern how a child can be moved from one state to another for the purposes of adopting that child. Both Texas and the child’s home state must approve the adoption before your child can come to Texas.
It is critical that you observe the laws associated with the Compact. The failure to do so will result in criminal charges. As with international adoptions, the ability to hire an experienced family law attorney is essential to achieving the best outcomes associated with adopting a child who lives in another state.
Terminating the parental rights of a child’s birth parent(s)
You cannot begin the process of adopting a child until that child’s biological parent’s parental rights have been terminated. This termination would occur in a legal case that is separate and independent of your adoption lawsuit. Once the birth parent’s parental rights have been terminated then the adoption could move forward. This makes sense given that you cannot legally adopt a child who already has parents.
Typically a child’s birth parents would sign a form called the Relinquishment of Parental Rights that would indicate the desire that each person has to place their child up for adoption. A court would then receive these signed forms and move forward with the termination process. It doesn’t matter what adoption method you are choosing to implement, you must first have the birth parent’s parental rights terminated.
In many cases, you will not be able to track down the birth father of the child. He is nonetheless entitled to notice of the pending termination lawsuit. You will need to show proof to the judge that you have attempted to locate the father before he or she will move forward with the termination proceedings. A termination suit will continue and likely be granted despite not being able to find the father. He will then be given constructive notice (as opposed to actually being notified) of the termination by having notice of the termination posted a newspaper or magazine with circulation in the area where he is believed to reside.
Keep in mind that if you choose to go this route- serving notice of the lawsuit by publication- you are doing so at the risk of the father popping up out of the blue and challenging the entire adoption. You do not want to go through with this case only to have an absentee father cause you problems down the line. As such, choosing to provide notice of the legal proceedings via publication should be looked at as a last-ditch option.
On the other hand, the birth mother must freely sign the relinquishment of parental rights after the birth of the child. A court will take 60 days typically to determine whether to terminate the birth mother’s parental rights. When I say termination of parental rights, I mean that the birth mother will have no greater legal rights or duties associated with that child moving forward than I or anyone else has (other than the child’s adoptive parents).
Your adoption case in family courts
A social study will be performed on you, your family and your home before the adoption process can be finalized. Prior to the placement of your child in your home, this step must be completed. You and your spouse will be interviewed and a criminal background search must be completed as well. In most situations, your child will need to live with you for at least six months before formally ok' in the adoption.
In this six month period, another social study will be conducted to see how your child interacts with you and your spouse. The best interests of your potential adoptive child will be considered as it is in any family law case in Texas. A judge will look to what is in your child's best interests and not what is in your best interests as an adoptive parent. It will not matter if you have spent years trying to adopt this child if a judge determines that the adoption is not in the child's best interests it will not happen.
What happens after a pre-adoptive social study occurs?
If you have been fortunate enough to make it through an adoption case then you are to be commended and congratulated. Adoption is an emotionally, logistically and legally difficult case to pursue. A final order granting the adoption will be signed by the judge in a hearing. Most of the time people will want to bring their child to court in order to witness the signing of the document as well as to get an opportunity to take a photo with the judge. In my experience, this is the happiest event that a person can encounter inside a family courtroom.
Once the adoption process is complete, you will have the same rights and duties in relation to your child as any birth parent would. There is no distinction in Texas between adoptive and birth parents. The rights and duties that you hold in relation to your child are on an equal footing to that of any parent. Many families will celebrate two birthdays for their child: their biological date of birth and the date that he or she became a member of your family through the adoption process.
Interested in adopting a child living in Mexico? Read tomorrow’s blog post from our office
If you are in the middle of learning more about how to adopt a Mexican citizen, then tomorrow’s blog post is for you. We will go through the ins and outs of adopting a Mexican citizen in tomorrow’s blog post. With so many people in our area having relatives living in Mexico this seems to be an area that needs to be explored in greater detail.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are experienced in working with clients in a variety of family law matters. We will sit down with you to answer your questions and will provide you with feedback about your particular circumstances.
We take pride in serving our neighbors here in southeast Texas. It is our objective to provide you with a high level of family law service and to do so efficiently and with no wasted motion. Consider our office when you are in the marketplace looking for an attorney. We appreciate your consideration and time spent reading our blog and hope that you will return tomorrow to read more.