We can assist you with private adoptions, including stepparent adoptions, relative adoptions, and adoptions between same-sex couples. Adoptions involve complex issues, including terminating the rights of the biological parents and determining where the suit for adoption should be filed.
Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of an individual’s life. Whether you are adopting a child, step-child, or other relative or whether the adoption is domestic or international, the process is complex and involves many steps. Understanding what rights and duties you may have during the pendency of an adoption proceeding is also important. Before beginning the process, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney to learn how they can help guide you through each step of the proceeding and ensure you reach a successful outcome.
In Texas, any adult may file a petition to adopt a child or an adult. When the adoption is of a child, certain age restrictions may apply. The Texas Family Code states, in part, that a child may be adopted if the parental rights of each living parent of the child have be terminated; or, one parent’s rights have not been terminated and the person seeking the adoption is the spouse of the nonterminated parent and the proceeding is for a stepparent adoption; or, the child is at least two years old, the rights of one parent have been terminated, the person seeking the adoption has been a managing conservator of the child or has had actual care, possession, and control of the child for at least six months prior to the filing of the adoption proceedings, and the nonterminated parent consents to the adoption; or, the child is at least two years old, the rights of one parent have been terminated, and the person seeking the adoption is the child’s former stepparent and has been a managing conservator or has had actual care, possession, and control of the child for at least one year prior to the adoption proceeding. Further, if the person seeking the adoption is married, both spouses must join the petition for adoption, even if the couple is separated but not divorced.
One important factor to consider in making the decision to adopt is when and where to file. If you are adopting a child from another state or county, you must ensure that you comply with the laws of the other state or country in addition to those of Texas. For domestic adoptions involving children outside of Texas, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) applies. The ICPC is an interstate agreement between all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands which imposes regulations on the adoption of a child, in addition to those discussed above.
Every individual seeking to adopt must undergo a home study. A home study is an assessment of the prospective adopting parent and his or her home to determine the prospective parent’s ability to provide a suitable home for the adoptive child. The home must be clean and there must be safety plans in place to ensure the adoptive child’s safety. If the home contains pets, the pets must be vaccinated. The home study is conducted by an individual appointed by the court, a private entity, a domestic relations officer, or a state agency.
The study includes personal interviews of each prospective adopting parent and of each adoptive child who is four (4) years of age or older, in addition to observations of each adoptive child regardless of their age. Additionally, the study includes a home evaluation, home visits, and criminal background checks of the prospective adopting parent(s). Infractions that are given careful consideration in adoptions include: stalking, domestic violence, public indecency, violations of the Texas Controlled Substance Act, intoxication and alcoholic beverage offenses, and any other felony committed with the past ten (10) years. Further, a prospective parent may be denied approval if the home study shows any finding of child abuse or neglect.
Each adoption is unique and the requirements of the law vary based on each family’s circumstances. It is important to seek the counsel of an adoption attorney with experience in this field before beginning the adoption process.