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Adopting a child can be a very exciting time for the prospective parents, even if it does come with a lot of regulations and paperwork. Texas law addresses numerous scenarios involving adoption, and takes into account the unique situations of parents and child alike. In general, any adult can adopt a child, so long as that adult is at least 21 years of age. If the child resides within the state, an adoption may take place if:

  • The parent-child relationship to the birth parents has been terminated or a suit has been filed to do so.
  • The parent is presently the spouse of the adoptive parent (which would happen in stepparent adoptions).
  • The child has been under care by the adoptive parent for at least six months.

If the child is over 12 years of age, their consent is required before the adoption can take place. There are a number of  other provisions of which to be aware depending upon your situation as the adoptive parent.

Adoption Process

On average, it may take 16-17 months for prospective adoptive parent(s) to be placed with a child. It takes a lot of paperwork to even get the ball rolling before the actual adoption takes place. The first of all these necessary documents is the Termination of Parental Rights statement from the birth parents. There is a six-month statute of limitations under which an appeal can occur, and it is possible for this paperwork to be submitted without the birth parent’s agreement.

All prospective parents are required to complete a home study, so as to ensure that the environment is conducive to raising a child. During this, prospective parents may be required to take classes on how to raise an adopted child. As previously stated, the child needs to be under the parent’s care for at least six months before the adoption can be finalized.

The adoption agency will be conducting a fairly extensive background check, and references from family members and friends do need to be provided. The agency will also need financial information, verification of employment, family history, medical records, criminal history (if there is one) and education, among many other pieces of information.

Types of Adoption

There is more than one way to adopt a child. These avenues exist because one option might not work for one adoptive parent as it does for another. The search usually begins with an adoption agency, and there are a few key differences between public and private agencies.

  • Public – Foster care is involved, as the child is usually relinquished by the parent to the welfare system or the court has terminated the parent’s rights. Before the child is put up for adoption, efforts are made to reunite them with their birth parent, or to have a close relative become their caretaker. If neither are possible, the child is placed in a foster-to-adopt program.
  • Private – Prospective parents are able to adopt newborns through this avenue. The birth parent will relinquish care directly to the adoptive parent, and the agency provides services to help this happen. These agencies are funded by the adoptive parents or through grants.
  • Open – Here, the birth parent is able to maintain a relationship with their child and the adoptive parents. This can vary from personal visits, to just having contact information. The birth parent and the adoptive parents will make an arrangement that works for them.
  • Closed – These are becoming far less frequent; only about 1 in every 10 adoptions are closed. This is because the birth mother is now given much more discretion in terms of choosing how the adoption will go than in years past. In a closed adoption, very little information is exchanged between the birth and adoptive parents. Usually it’s just pertinent medical records and nothing else.

There are varying degrees of these adoptions; for example, an adoption could be semi-open, in which contact is only made through a social worker. The adoption agency will work with the birth and adoptive parents to determine a situation which works for them and the child.

Texas Same-Sex Adoption

Since the pivotal Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage for the country, the effort has now focused on making adoption easier for same-sex couples.

In the past year, the adoption process for gay and lesbian couples has reached level par with all other types of couples. The necessary paperwork and the entire process is now exactly the same for all couples in Texas. The wait time for gay and lesbian couples is just slightly longer than the overall average according to the independent adoption center, but this is not due to discrimination from adoption agencies.

Until recently, birth certificates remained an issue for same-sex couples.  It used to be that if a surrogate was used, only the birth parents names would be on the certificate – and the document could only name a mother and father. However, it has recently been decided that both parents can be included on the birth certificate, regardless of their gender.

As a marriage certificate does not suffice as a guarantee of the legal relationship with the child for the non-biological parent, it’s crucial that both parents be named on their child’s birth certificate. Things like doctor visits, passports, or enrolling a child in school are much easier if both spouses are listed on the birth certificate. More importantly, if tragedy should befall the birth parent, the other spouse won’t have their parental rights called into question.

Texas Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption is when a step-mother or step-father adopts the children of their spouse. This can be a somewhat difficult process, particularly when a prior divorce has happened recently. The stepparent would need to be married to the biological parent before anything can occur, but it begins as any other adoption does, by the adoptive parent filing a petition.

Obtaining the termination of parental rights may not go as smoothly, as the birth parent may refuse to consent. This is when the courts would become involved.A judge will hear the case and determine if the parental rights of the birth parent should be terminated. It would have to be proven that the biological parent does not have a relationship with the child nor plan to establish one. Also, if the biological parent has not paid child support for more than a year or has been incarcerated for more than two years, then the courts can require their parental rights be terminated.

After this, a social study will be conducted. This determines whether the stepparent has a good relationship with the child via home observations, interviews, as well as evaluations of employment and financial records. Assuming everything is in good standing, an amicus attorney will be assigned to determine what is in the best interest for the child. They are an unbiased representative of the court, and they will be conducting interviews and observations well to see if that specific situation is what’s best for the child.

Texas Grandparent Adoptions

The necessity for grandparents to adopt usually springs from tragedy, in situations where both parents are deceased or the child has been removed from the home because of abuse or neglect. In adoption, grandparents receive all parental rights and responsibilities to the child’s well being, while the parents no longer have any.  In the event that the biological parents contest the adoption, prospective adoptive grandparents must prove that the child’s health or general well-being would be inhibited if they did not gain custody.

This is what’s known as “parental presumption,” and the grandparent may have to fight it in court by proving that the child’s health would be at risk if they stayed with their parents, a history of family violence exists, or that the parents voluntarily sent the child to live with someone else for more than a year.

How An Adoption Lawyer Can Help

Hiring an attorney can be an enormous help when navigating the adoption process. A lawyer could be of particular help if there are any problems with the birth mother (or father) relinquishing their parental rights. Depending on how you wish to adopt a child (open or closed through a public or private agency) an adoption attorney can help with the subtle yet key differences in the process for each. If the birth parents and adoptive parents live in different states, a lawyer can ensure compliance with the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC), which is a uniform law that requires administrators from the ICPC handle the transfer of documents between each state before the adoption is finalized.

If you are going through the adoption process, no matter your situation, contact the attorneys at Sadler & Sadler. Our experienced adoption lawyers can help with anything from paperwork to trial proceedings.