The journey to adoption can lead to happy endings, but it can also be difficult and confusing. Adopting a child or grandchild is rewarding and the best way to accomplish your goal is with the help of an adoption attorney. Qualified attorneys will help you navigate the waters of adoption while working in the child’s best interest.
Texas Adoption Lawyers
Texas adoption attorneys assist many families with various types of adoptions. Law firms such as the Jimenez Law Firm want you and your future child to get the happy ending you deserve. Our experience and education allow us to guide you through the complex adoption process while helping with paperwork and providing legal guidance along the way.
Adoption Attorneys and Why You Need Them
A skilled Texas adoption attorney knows the ins and outs of Texas adoption laws. There are many different ways to adopt, and our legal team can provide you with the pros and cons of your child adoption options to help you make the best decision for your family. In addition, we help with legal strategies surrounding potential problems including:
- Creating safeguards to protect adoptees
- Responding to biological parents or surrogates petitioning for rights
- Establishing guidelines for open and closed adoptions
How Much Does Adoption Cost in Texas?
A variety of factors influence the overall cost of adoption in Texas. Expenses for adoption agencies, adoption lawyers, and other professional services can greatly change the cost from case to case. The best way to understand what you can expect as far as adoption costs go is to speak with a qualified adoption attorney. They’ll provide insight into the various types of adoption and associated costs in relation to your current situation.
What are the Different Types of Adoption Available in Texas?
There are a number of ways to adopt a child in the state of Texas. The different types of adoptions available to you depend largely on your specific situation and your goals.
Local adoption, also commonly referred to as domestic adoption involves the adoption of a child within one’s home country. Often, in these cases, the birth mother or parents voluntarily and permanently select the parents and future family for the child. This type of adoption can be done through an adoption agency or without.
When using an agency, agencies typically connect the birth mother or parents with potential adoptive parents. They often help guide both parties through the process.
Foreign adoption or international adoption occurs when a family wishes to adopt a child from another culture. With foreign adoption, it’s not uncommon for adoptive parents to have no contact with the birth parents. They also typically do not have much information regarding the familial or medical backgrounds of the child. While foreign adoption has been popular in the past, there has been a decrease in foreign adoptions over the past several years.
Step-parent adoption involves one biological parent and one non-biological parent. Generally, the parent of the child and the stepparent petition for adoption and to terminate the parental rights of the non-custodial biological parent. In cases where the child is over 12 years of age, the child also needs to provide consent.
In some cases, stepparent adoption occurs after the child’s biological parent and stepparent have gone through a divorce. However, doing so often requires the assistance of an adoption attorney as one or both biological parents will need to have terminated their parental rights in order for the adoption to take place.
In some situations, a relative such as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle may wish to adopt a child. This generally happens when the birth parents are either unable or unwilling to care for the child. In most cases, one or both parents will need to terminate their rights. However, if the relative wishing to adopt the child has been the primary caregiver for a significant period of time, then they may be able to legally adopt the child without parental consent. Doing this does require the court to decide if the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
A private adoption occurs when the adoptive parents already know the birth mother or birth parents. These types of adoptions generally do not include adoption agencies. However, the legal process of terminating the parental rights of the birth parents to allow the legal adoption of the child must still be followed.
Adoption Via Foster Care
Typically, foster care adoptions occur when the child’s birth parents have already had their parental rights terminated by the court. Most foster care adoptions happen after a family has fostered a child for some time. Foster care adoption tends to be significantly less expensive than other forms of adoption. However, only a small fraction of foster children are adopted. In many cases, foster placement may be temporary or the child may not be a good fit for the family.
The Important Decision to Adopt
Adopting a child can be one of the most rewarding moments in your life and the child’s life. However, that’s not to say it’s without complications. One of the biggest concerns adoptive parents face is consent. This can include fears such as:
- What if the biological parent or surrogacy parent changes their mind?
- What if they want a relationship with the child years after the adoption?
- Can the biological parents take back custody of the child?
- What if they want an open adoption or visitation rights?
- How can I protect my adopted child against a potentially dangerous birth parent?
All of these concerns are valid. An attorney will be able to guide you through the possible answers, lead you through mediation or arbitration, and create a legal contract based on your agreements all while providing representation in court and acting as an advocate for you and the child.
How the Adoption Process Works in Texas
It’s important to note that there are differences depending on the type of adoption at hand. However, all adoptions in the state of Texas require the same basic steps.
- Information Meeting: Adoptive parents must meet age requirements as well as the ability to pass a criminal background check. They must also willingly go through each step in this process. The first step is to attend a meeting that will inform the adoptive parents about all of the steps and requirements. It also allows them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
- Preparation Meeting: The next meeting is with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). This meeting assesses if adoption is the right choice for your individual situation. It also allows DFPS to assess your qualifications to be an adoptive parent.
- Training: The state of Texas provides a Parent Resource Information Development Education course (PRIDE). This course is 35 hours long and provides instruction in regard to essential childcare. Adoptive parents must also participate in other training programs in addition to the PRIDE program. Each program helps adoptive parents understand how to effectively meet the needs of the adoptive child.
- Home Visit: A DFPS caseworker will conduct a home visit to review your lifestyle, personal history, and any current experience you have when it comes to caring for children. They’ll also analyze other factors to help them decide if you’re an appropriate candidate to be an adoptive parent. They will interview every member of your household, including any other children you may currently have. This allows the caseworker to get a clear idea of the whole picture when it comes to your family unit.
Completing these steps prior to going through the adoption process helps prepare you, your spouse, and your family. The goal is to create a seamless integration between the adoptive child and the family. These steps are comparable to those who wish to act as foster parents.
How is Adoption Different from Gaining Custody of a Child?
Under the Texas Family Code, a ‘parent’ is the child’s legal or natural mother or father. This includes adoptive parents. Adoptive parents have all the same rights as if they were the child’s biological parents. The adopted child will also have the same rights as any natural children of their adoptive parents, including inheritance.
A conservator is someone who has court-ordered custody of a child. They are only granted the rights listed in the court order. A child raised by a conservator does not have the same rights as the conservator’s natural children. For the child to inherit anything from a conservator, it would have to be left to them in the conservator’s will. Otherwise, the child is not entitled to any portion of the conservator’s estate.
Who Can Ask to Adopt a Child?
Any adult can petition for the adoption of an eligible child. A child may be eligible for adoption if:
- Both parents have passed away.
- Both parents have, or will have, their parental rights terminated.
- One parent has lost or will lose their parental rights, and the other parent’s spouse is seeking adoption.
- The child is at least two years old, one of the parents has lost their parental rights, and
- The non-terminated parent consents to the adoption; or
- The adult seeking adoption is the child’s former stepparent AND is also a managing conservator or has had actual care, control, and possession of the child for at least 12 months before filing.
When Can a Child Be Adopted?
A child can be adopted at any point after living with the adult seeking adoption for a period of at least six months. The court may waive this requirement if it is in the best interest of the child.
Who Needs to Agree to an Adoption?
All parties involved in the adoption must agree, except when the biological parents have died, or their parental rights terminated. For example, if a married person asks to adopt a child, their spouse must consent to the adoption and their name added to the petition to adopt. If the child has a managing conservator, the conservator must consent to the adoption. The court may waive this requirement if the conservator has refused to or has revoked consent without good reason. Additionally, if the child is over the age of 12, the child must consent to the adoption. However, the court may waive this requirement if the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
Does Adoption Require Termination of Parental Rights?
Texas law requires that a child have only one set of legal parents. Unless one or both parents have died, at least one parent’s rights will need to be terminated to make room for the adult seeking adoption.
The Best Interests of the Child: The Legal Standard
The child’s best interest is the standard a judge will use to make their final decision in an adoption case. To arrive at this decision, the court will:
- Conduct personal interviews of the child and adoptive parents.
- Observe the child in different home environments.
- Assess the child’s relationship with the adults involved in the adoption.
- Evaluate the home environments where the child might live.
- Consider any criminal history of persons living in the homes involved.
If the adoptive parents are non-relatives, the court will also order reports on their health, education, social, and genetic history.
During the hearing, the judge will hear all testimonies of the involved adults. The judge will also review any relevant reports and studies. Ultimately, the judge will favor whichever household is most capable of meeting the child’s needs and award legal custody.
Do I Need an Adoption Lawyer?
If you seek to adopt a child, it is a good idea to hire or seek an attorney’s advice. Adoption cases can be quite complicated. Hiring the right family law attorney can improve your chances of a successful adoption.
Work with Our Trusted Adoption Attorneys
If you have questions regarding termination of parental rights or adoption, contact The Jimenez Law Firm, P.C. and one of our family law lawyers, by calling or by completing the contact form on this website. We offer consultations and accept most major credit cards for the payment of services.