Adoption is a legal process to create the parent-child relationship between a child and an adult who is not the biological parent of the child. Completing an adoption brings joy and connection between the child and the adoptive parent. Adoption in Texas is relatively straightforward, and a basic understanding of the necessary steps can help adults decide whether to proceed with the adoption. Today's blog will describe the essential steps required for an uncontested (unopposed) legal adoption.
Filing the Petition
An attorney experienced in adoption files a "petition", which is the request for adoption. The petition is filed in the county of residence. A "citation" and copy of the petition must be served upon both biological parents of the child, unless they waive the right to be served.
Terminating Parental Rights
The petition will request that the Court terminate the parental rights of the biological parents of the child. The termination must be based on one of the specific grounds for termination of parental rights. The most common ground for termination is the voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, which is handled by the biological parent simply signing an Affidavit for Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. Alternative grounds, such as abandonment and failure to provide child support in accordance with the parent's ability, can also be used.
The Court will appoint a qualified social worker to perform an investigation into the adoptive parents. The social worker will meet with the child and the adoptive parents, inspect the home, obtain financial information and talk to independent witnesses. The social worker then prepares and submits a detailed report to the Court.
Criminal Background Check
The adoptive parents must submit to fingerprinting so that a criminal background check can be completed. A criminal history does not necessarily mean that the adoptive parent is not eligible to adopt. The Court must take all relevant factors into consideration.
The Court is required to appoint a licensed attorney as the "amicus attorney" in the case. This attorney's role is to assist the Court in protecting the best interest of the child. The amicus attorney will meet with the adoptive parents and the child, and render an opinion regarding the best interest of the child.
During the process, the attorney representing the adoptive parents will create multiple documents that the Court will require to be submitted.
Once all of the above steps have been completed, and the Court is satisfied that all legal requirements have been met, the case is ready for a prove-up hearing. At the hearing, the adoptive parents and their child appear in Court, along with their attorney and the amicus attorney. Other family members and friends are welcome to attend. When the case is called, the family approaches the bench. The attorney representing the adoptive parents asks the adoptive parents some simple questions designed to provide the necessary proof to the Court of the eligibility to adopt. The amicus attorney and the Judge may also ask several questions. Depending on the age of the child, the child may also be asked some simple questions to establish the child's desire to be adopted. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge grants the adoption and signs the Order. Commonly, the Judge will permit photos to be taken.
If you or a family member wishes to pursue the adoption of a child, the assistance of an experienced adoption attorney is critical to success. The family law attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm have extensive experience handling termination/adoption matters. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney, contact the offices of Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio.