Fort Worth Adoption attorney, Jayson Nag, has extensive experience with child adoptions, adult adoptions, step-parent adoptions and parental rights termination adoptions.
What Is an Adoption in Texas?
- The purpose of an adoption is to allow an adult to adopt a child or another adult. The adopted child or adult is given the same rights and status that a natural child enjoys from his or her parents.
- Ordinarily, the adopted child or adult may inherit property from his or her new adoptive parents; however, the natural or birth parents of the adopted person may not inherit from the child or adult who has been adopted.
- The adoption establishes a legal parent-child relationship between the child or adult adoptee and the persons who are adopting the child or adult.
- More and more people are adopting children and infants each year.
How Are Children or Adults Chosen for an Adoption?
- Children can be placed for adoption in several ways:
- Private Adoption: where a child’s birth parents agree to relinquish their rights in a child to the adopting parents.
- Placement through a government agency such as the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
- Placement by a licensed state placement agency.
- Adults can adopt other adults, and this usually occurs without any agency involvement.
What Role Do Government Agencies Plan in an Adoption?
- Agencies generally have the most number of children that need adopting parents. Agencies assist individual parents find suitable children to adopt. There are also private licensed nongovernment agencies that match children with adopting parents.
- There are times when adoptions occur anonymously, that is the adopting parents are not made aware of the identities of the natural mother and father. Some people prefer a private placement to an anonymous adoption because they are able to get a feel for the child by viewing the natural mother or father.
- Some agencies combine both approaches. The agency may not share the last name and addresses of the birth mother and father, but the parties are encouraged to meet before or after the child’s birth to talk about goals and desires of the child’s future.
- The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has a large listing of children available for adoption. If you have questions about using a state agency, you should call the local office in your city and arrange to meet with one of the supervisors or agency personnel to discuss their procedures.
- Only birth parents can legally place a child for anonymous or private adoption. In order to obtain a private adoption, you must find the parents who are considering adoption and inform them that you would like to adopt the child.
Can I Pay Someone to Find a Child to Adopt?
- It is illegal in most states, including Texas, to buy a baby. It is a crime to pay money for the placement of an adoptive child. The birth mother cannot choose proposed adoptive parents based on which set of adoptive parents provides the most lucrative financial package. This financial package could consist of many enticements: rent, car, cash, supplemental payments, etc.
- Proposed adoptive parents may, however, pay reasonable medical expenses related to the health of the child. Unfortunately, the term reasonable medical expenses has been the subject of much debate. Suffice it to say, use your common sense, and if you have any questions, call an attorney.
- The best general rule is not to pay any money to the birth parents. For instance, it may not be wise to give the birth mother a $3,500 check after she signs the papers necessary for the adoption to occur and then write on the check, “Payment for medical and living expenses.”
- In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, it would be best to pay medical expenses directly to the health care provider. You can legally pay an attorney for his or her reasonable attorney’s fees relating to his or her preparation of legal documents and representation in the adoption proceedings and proceedings to terminate the birth parents’ parental rights; however, you cannot pay an attorney for the placement of the child.
- Once a child has been identified for an adoption, a legal proceeding must be filed in order to formally and officially affect an adoption.
- There are two steps to an adoption process when a husband and wife are adopting a child from a natural parent who desires to give up rights to his or her child.
- The FIRST STEP is to terminate the birth parents’ rights in the child. This is known as the termination stage of the proceeding. In Texas, this is normally the more difficult part of the proceeding. This step requires an experienced adoption lawyer who practices in that county. We practice in Tarrant and Parker County.
- The SECOND STEP is to formally and officially adopt the child.
What Is a Relinquishment of Parental Rights?
- You cannot adopt a minor child until the natural parents’ parental rights have ended or been “terminated.” Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary.
- The easiest method is a voluntary relinquishment whereby both birth parents, the father and mother, sign forms known as Affidavits of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights.
- These legal documents authorize the adoption by the adopting parents and give up or forever relinquish the natural father or mother’s rights into the child being placed for adoption.
- The relinquishment of parental rights must be freely and voluntarily signed after the birth of the child and after the parent are free of any drugs or anesthesia agents, which are as a result of the birthing process.
- Relinquishment of parental rights generally cannot be revoked for 60 days. Within the 60-day period, the court generally decides whether to terminate the parental rights. The decision to terminate is accepted in very unusual situations permanent.
What Happens if We Cannot Find One or Both of the Natural Parents?
- If the location and identity of one of the birth parents is unknown, typically the father, due process of law requires that the unknown father or party be given notice of the adoption proceedings. You must show the court that you have diligently tried to locate the unrepresented parent.
- If you cannot locate the unknown parent your attorney can attempt to serve the unknown parent through a proceeding known as citation by publication. This is a procedure whereby a notice is placed in a newspaper that the adoption proceeding is pending and notice is given to the unknown missing parent.
- Courts may require in the publication in the county of birth and or the county of the unknown birth parents’ last-known residence. The rules for a citation by publication are complex and must be followed strictly and to the letter.
- It is recommended that you have an attorney handle adoption if one of the natural parents is not available or does not sign a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights.
What Is an Ad Litem?
- Before the matter is set for a hearing in front of a judge, an attorney or guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent a missing parent, if one or more of the natural parents have not signed a relinquishment of parental rights. All persons are entitled to due process of law; accordingly, an unrepresented person must receive notice of the proceedings, and he or she should be represented at any hearing which takes away his or her rights. An unknown or unrepresented person is given notice of the procedure by publishing the citation (notice of the adoption) by the publication process.
- An attorney ad litem is appointed for the unrepresented parents and children. That attorney will attempt to use reasonable diligence to locate the missing parents and afford them notice of the proceedings.
- The attorney or guardian ad litem, will charge a fee for his or her services in attempting to use due diligence to locate the unknown parent and for representing the interests of the unrepresented parent and the minor children. The process is designed to assure the unrepresented parties that they have been given due process according to law.
What Are Termination Proceedings?
- If the court holds a termination proceeding, then someone must be appointed as managing conservator of the child. The managing conservator is responsible for the child’s welfare until the child is ultimately adopted. One or both adoptive parents can become managing conservators.
- In an anonymous adoption, termination proceedings are generally separate from the adoption proceedings. Someone other than the adoptive parents, such as the adoption agency representative who knows both the birth mother and birth father or the adoptive parents is appointed as the managing conservator.
- Hospitals may require termination orders and appointments of managing conservators before they will release a child to a managing conservator. The hospital wants to make sure it is releasing the child to the appropriate legal person who has legal custody over the child. You may wish to check with the hospital to determine its own individual requirements if any.
What Are Court-Appointed Social Studies?
- After an adoption petition has been filed, the court will order a social study to be performed on the suitability of the adopting parents. A social or case worker will visit the adopting parents’ homes.
- They will meet the parents and view the circumstances and then issue a report to the court of their findings.
The Court Hearing
- The adoption proceeding can be held in one or two court hearings. The termination proceeding can be the subject of its own proceeding or can be joined in with the adoption proceeding so that the parties have to go to court one time.
- After due process has been complied with, then the parties may schedule a hearing (sometimes called a “Prove-Up”) in front of the court to finalize the adoption proceedings. At the hearing, the parties will show the court that all jurisdictional and procedural requirements have been complied with. Also, the court will examine the findings of the social study and the recommendations of the attorney or guardian ad litem.
- Thereafter, the court will issue its decision or opinion. At that time, the attorney representing the adoptive parents will hand the court a proposed adoption decree. If the decree complies with the legal standards, the court will sign the decree, which terminates the natural parents’ parental rights and authorizes the adoptive parents to adopt the children.
- Texas law requires that a child live in the adoptive home for at least six months before granting an adoption. The six-month requirement can be waived upon a finding of “good cause.” Some courts routinely waive this requirement more than others.
- The overriding concern of the court, social study agency, and guardian ad litem is what is in the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem will state in his or her report what he or she believes to be in the best interest of the child.
- Once an adoption decree has been signed by the judge, the attorney or court clerk will submit the necessary papers to the appropriate state agency showing that an adoption has occurred. The forms generally include information so the state can be made aware of the adoption process.
- Thereafter a new birth certificate can be obtained which will show the changes in the child’s name from the natural mother or father’s name to the adopting parents’ last name may be ordered.
Fort Worth Adoption Lawyer Jayson Nag provides the highest quality representation. He can help you with your adoption case. To set up a consultation, call 817-900-2823.