The Moffett Law Firm adoption lawyers in Houston are specially suited to handle legal counsel for your family during this happy but sometimes confusing time.
Our Houston Adoption Lawyers Will Guide Your Through the Legal Red Tape
Learning how to adopt a baby in Houston, Texas is difficult, but our experts will guide you along the way. We provide help with the necessary paperwork upfront, and compliance with relevant legal conventions. For example, the Hague Convention set international standards in 1993 that safeguard inter-country adoptions. The U.S. joined signed the convention as of 1994, and this further complicates the legal environment surrounding adoption.
Another law that Houston adoption attorneys must be familiar with is the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), that was enacted in 1978. As you can tell, having legal guidance from lawyers specializing in adoption can be a critical part of your adoption and building a family.
The Legal Requirements for a Texas Adoption
Under Texas law, any single or married adult can adopt a child whose parent-child relationship with one or both of their parents has been terminated. This is done through a legal procedure known as termination of parental rights. An adoption case can be simultaneous with a termination suit by an adoption attorney in Houston or brought after parental rights have been terminated.
Under Texas law, certain parties have a right to notice regarding both terminations of parental rights and adoption. The legal (birth) parents of the child, anyone with court-ordered access to the child, and possible fathers alleged in an adoption or termination petition all have a right to notice under Texas law. If proper notice is not provided, then it could impact the success of the adoption, which is why having a knowledgeable family law attorney in Houston is so critical.
Terminating Parental Rights
The termination of parental rights is a necessary step in order for a child to be adopted. This can be done by one or both parents. Termination is only required by one parent in the case of stepparent adoption, or if the birth father is unknown.
In private adoptions, one or both birth parents may voluntarily sign a termination of parental rights. However, they may not consent to the adoption until 48 hours after giving birth to the child. If a birth father is known, he must also consent to the adoption, and notified of the mother’s intention to place the child for adoption. If his location is unknown, reasonable efforts must be made to contact him. After the 48 hours have expired, the birth parents may sign a consent to adoption, which terminates their parental rights after the waiting period described below has expired.
Consent to an adoption is not necessary for certain situations, such as where parental rights have been terminated by a court (typically for abuse or neglect), the child unintentionally survived a planned abortion, where the child’s birth is the result of a crime, or where the mother suffers from a mental illness and is unable to care for the child.
In Texas, there is a waiting period for entry of the court order after a parent signs a termination of parental rights. Birth parents have a period of 10 days after signing to revoke their consent to an adoption and termination of parental rights. If a birth parent revokes his or her consent to adoption, then the child is typically returned to the birth parent(s).
A Texas adoption is not complete, and a child cannot be formally adopted until he or she has lived with the adoptive parents for 6 months. During this time, a social worker will make regular visits. After the 6 month period is up, then the adoption can be finalized. If a child is over 12 years old, he or she must consent to the adoption. Both the 6 month waiting period and the consent requirement for older children can be waived if it is in the child’s best interest.
Because these laws impact the finalization of an adoption, working with an adoption attorney in Houston can give you peace of mind in knowing that you have complied with the rules to successfully complete the process.
What Challenges Might a Step Parent Face with Child Adoption?
One common type of adoption involves stepparents who want to formalize their relationship with their stepchildren. Whether their biological parent is deceased or simply does not play a role in their lives, stepparent adoption can present a unique set of challenges. The difficulties typically lie in getting a biological parent to agree to terminate his or her parental rights — even when he or she does not actively support or engage with his or her children.
In order for a stepparent to adopt his or her stepchild, he or she must be legally married to a biological parent of the child in question. The other biological parent must either be deceased or an absentee parent. In those situations, the stepparent can petition a court to gain the legal right to become the child’s parent. A child adoption attorney can assist in this process.
As an initial matter, your adoption attorney in Houston may attempt to work with the biological parent to get him or her to agree to terminate parental rights. If that does not work, then the case will proceed to a court hearing, where a judge will decide the petition based on the best interests of the child. The determination will be based on a number of factors and will involve a social study of your home and an interview with your stepchild and spouse. A lawyer known as an amicus attorney will be appointed to represent your stepchild’s interests and will make a recommendation to the judge based on similar information as presented in the social study.
Stepparent adoptions can be challenging when there is a living biological parent, who may be resentful at the proposed adoption— even if he or she isn’t involved in the child’s life. Having an experienced adoption attorney in Houston is often necessary to help you build the strongest factual and legal case possible.
At Moffett law firm, our lawyers will help you through every step of the adoption process, from petition through final order. We will educate you about the adoption process, making certain you are aware of the steps necessary to complete your adoption.
The Moffett Law Firm Adoption Lawyers in Texas Can Help
Whether you’re aiming to adopt a stepchild, a family member, or you’re already working with an adoption agency, the Moffett Law Firm adoption attorneys in Houston can help you navigate the difficult process.