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Adoption in Texas begins with Termination of Parental Rights because a child may only have one legal set of parents. Terminating the biological parental rights is sometimes voluntarily, but may also be involuntarily. In a stepparent adoption, the parental rights of only one biological parent is terminated. When adopting through an agency or in a private adoption, both the biological mother’s and father’s rights are terminated.
The general rule is that a child must live with the potential adoptive parents for at least six months before a Petition for Adoption may be filed. Also, both spouses of a married couple must seek adoption together. A single person may petition the court for adoption as well. If the child to be adopted is 12 years old or older, the child must consent to the adoption, or the court must waive the consent based on the child’s best interest.
An involuntary termination occurs when a court finds that it is in the child’s best interest that the parent’s rights be taken without the consent of the parent. The Court must follow the Texas law to support this finding. Some of the legal reasons to terminate a biological parent’s rights are abandonment, neglect, failure to support, endangerment, engaging in criminal conduct, and a finding that the parent is legally unfit.
In a voluntary termination, the parent to be terminated signs an affidavit agreeing to the termination and agreeing with the choice of adoptive parent. This document is then filed with the court. The court will review the affidavit to determine if it is legally sufficient. The termination must also be in the child’s best interest.
An adoption not only requires termination of parental rights, but also various studies and reports must be conducted and filed with the court. The adoptive parent can expect personal interviews, a home evaluation, and criminal background checks, among other things during the studies performed by a licensed social worker. These help the court decide if the adoption is in the best interest of the child. They also provide the adoptive parents with information about the child’s biological parents’ health, social, educational and genetic background. Some of the studies and reports are not mandatory when the adoptive parents are related to the child.
After all the reports and studies have been filed with the court, the termination and adoption can be completed. The adopting parent(s) will appear in court to give testimony. Most adoption hearings include the child, extended family and friends. It is a relaxed atmosphere that can include balloons, gifts and photos with the Judge. Adoptions are the highlight of a family law attorney’s job.
Baylor Family Law