Adoption is a court procedure by which one or more persons enter into a legal parental relationship with another, establishing legal obligations of child support for food, clothing, education, inheritance, and custody rights. Adoption laws have undergone great changes in recent years to accommodate the needs of all the parties involved- that is, the adopting parents, the natural parents, the child or other adopted person (sometimes an adult or a lover), private investigators, lawyers and judges. Traditional agency adoptions arranged by licensed charities and publicly funded social service agencies, or county adoptions conducted by state agencies were once the norm. Now independent adoptions, arranged privately between natural mothers and adoptive parents and requiring court approval, have become more common. People thinking about adoption in Texas should first think about the following considerations before taking action. Doing so first will help facilitate the adoption process.
1. Contact a lawyer who practices primarily in the area of family law for an initial consultation.
The lawyer can help you better prepare for the interview with the adoption agency. Ask the lawyer about the eligibility requirements and for an explanation of the various petitions and legal documents that must be filed in court to consummate the process.
2. Know the eligibility requirements.
Texas imposes age and lifestyle requirements. Some judges are reluctant to grant adoptions to elderly coups or grandparents for reasons of age. Others are unwilling to grant adoptions to unmarried or homosexual couples. However, such decisions may be successfully appealed where circumstances dictate it is in the best interest of the child.
In response to growing frustration with the length of time children resided in foster care and concern about decisions involving returning children to dangerous home settings, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). sdf The law requires states to implement programs insuring that reasonable efforts to place a child for adoption or with a legal guardian be made. Social workers must quickly identify, recruit, process, and approve qualified families for an adoption, or risk losing federal aid.
3. Consider a private adoption.
Texas allows adoption through private agencies, but there are limits on the fees that can be charged by natural parents, surrogate mothers, and lawyers. In private adoptions, you have to locate a birth mother willing to give up her child for adoption. This may be easier than you think, but in any event, in Texas an attorney CANNOT assist you with locating a birth mother. Typically a Texas adoption attorney will handle all other legal and financial aspects of the adoption.
4. Consider the legal implications of an adoption
Before you being the process, you should consider the various legal rights and responsibilities that arise with a complete adoption:
Change of name. Request the name change be made part of the final adoption decree and be sure to include this request in the petition for adoptions that is filed with the court.
Inheritance. Typically, a child loses all rights involving the natural parents, including the right to support and the right to inherit from a biological parent who dies without a will.
Sealed Records. Usually a court order must be obtained to open the file, an this may be granted only for a good reason such as a medical emergency.
5. Consider the concept of an open adoption, which allows the adoptee to have ongoing contact with certain blood relatives.
This is occasionally provided for in an agreement with older children; the proposed agreement is introduced at the adoption proceeding, and the judge carefully scrutinizes the document and weighs all the factors to determine whether this should be granted.
Facilitating the creation of a new families through adoption is a great honor and one of the most professionally and personally satisfying aspect of my job as a family law attorney. If you have any questions about the adoption process in Texas, or if I can be of any other assistance, please do not hesitate to book a personal appointment of call me at 832-819-3523.
Attorney Sean Y. Palmer has over 19 years of legal experience as a Texas Attorney and over 25 years as a Qualified Mediator in civil, family and CPS cases. Palmer practices exclusively in the area Family Law and handles Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, Adoptions, and other Family Law Litigation cases. He represents clients throughout the greater Houston Galveston area, including: Clear Lake, NASA, Webster, Friendswood, Seabrook, League City, Galveston, Texas City, Dickinson, La Porte, La Marque, Clear Lake Shores, Bacliff, Kemah, Pasadena, Baytown, Deer Park, Harris County, and Galveston County, Texas.