Family Law

What Is Adoption?

In an adoption, parental rights are signed over from the birth parents to the adoptive parents. Adoption is a legal understanding; the adoptive parents become legally responsible for the child and obtain all legal parental rights. This legal procedure is very absolute that a new birth certificate is issued for the child.  The birth certificate displays the adoptive parents' names as the child's mother and father at the time of birth. The original birth certificate is kept and sealed; it can only be retrieved by court order.

Adoptions in Texas can be private or through an agency, open or anonymous, or a combination of these types of adoptions. Individuals wanting to adopt must file an adoption petition with the court. Supporting documents, including a report on the investigation of the child and the social study are must also be filed by an adoption agency. The Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services provide various services to people who are actively pursuing adoption, or looking to place their child in adoptive custody.

The majority of the laws and regulations regarding adoptions are relevant to stranger adoption or unrelated adoption. Many of the mandatory processes to adopt in Texas relate to agency and private adoptions. International and domestic adoptions have many similarities, but additional obligations and procedures apply for an international adoption.

Adoption may occur within a family; this type of adoption is often called a relative adoption. A stepparent who provides love, care, guidance and discipline for the child or children of their spouse may formalize the relationship by adopting the stepchildren. An aunt, uncle or grandparent can adopt a child when the child's birth parents are unable to provide care for the child. A relative adoption can only occur if both birth parents give their consent.

According to Texas law, an adult adopted by another, older adult is possible. The individual wanting to be adopted must agree to the adoption and is required be present at the final hearing.

Who May Adopt?

Any adult in Texas may file a petition to adopt a child. Generally, married couples apply to become adoptive parents. Divorced, separated and single people also have the right to adopt in Texas. Married couples must adopt mutually, one spouse may not request to adopt a child without the approval and joint petition of their spouse. No particular income level, social background, housing situation or age makes certain people more qualified than others to become adoptive parents. It is a violation of the Texas adoption laws to discriminate against a person because of their race or ethnicity, or to refuse a person the right to adopt a child for any of these reasons. An individual or couple may be obligated to present additional information to an agency that is considering their application. For example, working parents could be required to give proof of the child care that will be given.

Open Versus Closed Adoption

An adoption is considered “open” if and when the adoptive and birth parents know each other and stay in contact after the adoption. However, if both the adoptive and birth parents do not have knowledge of each other and cease all interaction, then the adoption is considered “closed.” In most cases, open adoptions are privately arranged among the adoptive and the birth parents. Individuals can make such arrangements through attorneys, friends, nurses, or doctors.

Open and closed adoptions are two of the many options accessible to parents. Open and closed adoptions are the opposite ends of the adoption choice spectrum. The amount of honesty and transparency in an adoption is established by the involved individuals and may be quite complex. A crucial part to a successful adoption is all the expectations concerning openness and the role both sets of parents will fulfill are clearly communicated and understood by all involved individuals. Adoption mediators or attorneys can help to make certain the most secure adoption plan is in the best interests of the child.

Initiating an Adoption

Before an adoption of a child begins, birth parents of the child must willingly sign a document surrendering all legal parental rights with regard to the child. Parental rights can also be terminated involuntarily: parents can be deemed incompetent by a court of law. For example, a court may discover that a parent has severely abused, abandoned, or has shown little to no interest in caring for the child that he or she is not capable of being a parent. Typically, when birth parents renounce their right to take care of their child, they do so freely. Before the child is placed in the care of the adoptive parents, the adoption agency may responsible for the care and is the primary decision maker on behalf of the child.
 
When the birth parents sign a document to relinquish their rights, it must clearly state their wish to place the child for adoption and their belief that adoption is the best option for the child’s well-being.  If the biological father of the child is not involved in the initial part of the adoption procedure, an effort must be made to find him before the adoption can be completed. Publishing a notice in the leading newspaper in the county in which he resides can be an effective way in locating the biological father. If he cannot be located, the adoption still can be concluded provided that the notice requirement is met.
 
The birth mother is given 48 hours after the child is born, to confirm their consent to the adoption. This is to make certain that her consent given of their own free will. The relinquishment form must include two witnessed and be verified by a notary. Once the birth mother signs the form, it cannot be revoked for a period of 60 days. During the 60-day period, a judge will determine whether to acknowledge the consent form and terminate parental rights. A child over 12 years of age must give their approval to be adopted.

In Texas, as well as all other states, it is illegal to pay money for a baby. Payment given to a birth parent or a third person for the right to adopt a child is in violation of the law. Adoptive parents are permitted by law to cover reasonable expenses regarding the adoption. These expenses may include the birth mother's medical expenses in relation to the birth, and fees regarding the attorney's legal procedural part of the adoption. This law does permit adoption agencies or mediators, such as attorneys, from charging fees for their services.

Adoption Placements and Procedures

Adoption agencies or private child-placement must be licensed in the state of Texas. Even with these regulations, not every licensed agency is identical. Services rendered, adoptive clients, geographic area, fees charged and age of the child to be adopted are some of the ways agencies differ in services. It is important to ask questions when determining if the needs of both the adoptive and birth parents are services offered by the agency.

Private Adoption: is the placement of a child from a birth parent(s) directly to the adopting parent(s). This independent adoption occurs without the assistance of an agency. In this situation, the parties have joined together by way of other methods—this usually involves mutual friends. However, even in the events of a private-placement adoption, the adopting parents must file a formal request to adopt and must go through many of the same dealings as with an agency adoption. The birth parents of the child can select the adopting parents in an independent or private adoption. Agency adoptions typically are anonymous. In an anonymous adoption, both adoptive and birth parents may have some identifying information about each other, but all other information is keep confidential.

Agency Placement: is an adoption made through a state-licensed public or private adoption agency. When using an adoption agency, the birth parent signs a document stating all parental rights are surrendered to the adoption agency. Approximately 67% of all adoptions in the United States use agencies to arrange the adoption.

Qualification

Adoption agencies carry out very extensive examinations of people who are wishing to adopt.  These interviews are referred to as a "home study" or "social study." Agencies also assess the child’s needs to create a record including a history and confirming that the child is legally available for adoption. The child's record includes their medical history, educational, social, genetic backgrounds, and information concerning any history of abuse. The social study of the prospective adoptive parents is an investigation of medical, employment, marital, and criminal history. An interview is also conducted to determine whether the potential parents are prepared for the responsibilities of parenting. A few of the factors considered in the home study consist of:

  1. Are both people eager to adopt?
  2. Is the house clean and safe?
  3. Will one parent stay home with the child or will they use day care?
  4. Do the applicants have any experience with children?
  5. Is there room for the child?
  6. How long have the applicants been married?
  7. Can they afford to have a child?

The object of the examination and interview process is to verify that adoption is the best option for the couple and to make sure the couple will be able to meet the necessary needs of the child they are seeking to adopt. An interview is not intended to access whether or not the applicants have a great deal of education, a big house, or lot a of money. The home study is also an opportunity for the prospective parents to acquire any information from the agency worker regarding questions and or concerns the adopting parent may have. Even though a person arranges an adoption without the use of an agency, an investigation and social study must still be conducted whether by a public or private agency 

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