Private Adoptions in Texas - The Creation of a New Family

One of the best things we get to do at the Springer Law Firm is to help create new families through adoptions. Adoptions are technical legal proceedings which require attention to detail to avoid tragedies like we hear in the news when biological parents come out of the woodwork and claim their blood children. We at the Springer Law Firm want to ensure that our adoption cases are done with meticulous attention to detail so none of our clients will ever have to suffer the heart break of a recalled adoption.

Our area courts are also dedicated to making sure that adoptions are final and that there will not be issues arising in the future. Many local attorneys and Bar Associations contribute toys and/or money for the courts to give out toys to the children who are being adopted. A final adoption hearing is a wonderful event, with families and friends welcome to witness and participate in the hearing. The Judges usually allow pictures in the court room, and the adopted child often ends up in the Judge's lap. Adoptions in Texas can be conducted through three channels: Department of Family Protective Services, adoption agencies, and private adoptions between the parties with an attorney. This article will address private adoptions in Texas.

Adoption Proceedings

An adoption is a permanent and legal change of designation of a child's parent or parents. This is more than a guardianship and affects the child's inheritance rights, his birth records and his name. Adoption is more than just a legal proceeding, it is the creation of a new family. Adoption adds a child to a family just as does a natural birth.

Generally, adoption proceedings are accompanied by termination proceedings because a child cannot have more than two parents. In order for a new parent to be added, an existing parent's rights must be terminated.

Who May Adopt?

An adult residing in Texas for six months may adopt a child in Texas. In addition, "standing" is a preliminary requirement. To have "standing," a prospective parent must meet at least one of three requirements:

1. actual care and possession of the child for six months;

2. a "Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights" form signed by a biological parent, or

3. a verified written statement from the biological parent.

A biological parent can sign a Statement to Confer Standing before the child is born, but a Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights is not any good unless it is signed at least forty-eight hours after the birth of the child. Your attorney can help you draft the appropriate documents to begin your adoption proceeding.

Biological Parents

Before a child with living biological parents can be adopted, the parents' parental rights must be terminated. One of the ways to terminate the rights of biological parents is through the signing of a Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. This document must be notarized in addition to being witnessed by two impartial individuals.

In the case that there is an unknown biological father, a search of the Paternity Registry and the Acknowledgement of Paternity Registry must be done to determine if a potential biological father has registered with either entity and if so, that parent must be included in the termination proceeding. If no results are found and the biological mother does not know who the biological father is, your attorney can address with you the most appropriate way to serve the unknown father. This is usually done through citation by publication which must be ordered by the Court. If the biological father cannot be located or if his identity is unknown, the court will also need to appoint an attorney Ad Litem to represent the interests of the unknown biological father.

In the case of step-parent adoptions, or adoptions of any case which commences after a child has been born, I recommend requesting the Bureau of Vital Statistics search for a court of continuing jurisdiction should there be an existing cause of action regarding the child. If this is the case, jurisdiction stays with the court where the order was rendered and you will need to file the petition in the court of continuing jurisdiction and request to transfer the case to your current county if applicable.

What You Can Expect Through the Process

Texas requires that with every adoption, an adoption evaluation or home screening must be conducted. A social evaluator will be ordered by the Court who will contact the potential adoptive parents, visit with them and file a report with the Court. In addition to this evaluation, the Court will often appoint an Amicus Attorney to represent the best interest of the child. Because an adoption and termination of a child's parents' rights is an extremely serious matter, Courts often appoint an Amicus to ensure the termination and the adoption are both in the child's best interest. After you have met with the social evaluator, it is likely you will meet with the Amicus who will come to your home to meet with you and the child to be adopted to discuss the adoption. This interview can be done with or without your attorney present. It is important for you to discuss which you prefer with your attorney prior to scheduling the interview.

While your case is pending, all prospective adoptive parents to the suit will need to complete a criminal background check with both the State of Texas and a federal background check. The results will need to be filed with the Court prior to completion of the adoption.

Many courts set aside specific days of the week or the month for adoptions to allow time for the court to review the pleadings and ensure that everything is in order. This process prevents family and friends from coming down to the courthouse only to be disappointed because something is not in order and the Court cannot grant the adoption that day. It also allows for privacy and an opportunity to celebrate the very special occasion without a multitude of other cases waiting and watching.

If you are ready to take the steps to become a prospective adoptive parent, contact The Springer Law Firm to schedule a consultation. We look forward to assisting you in expanding your family.

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