Providing a loving environment for a child in need is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. You’re excited to start growing your family but might not know the steps you need to take. Smith Family Law can advise you on what you need to know when trying to adopt and provide guidance from start to finish. If you’re considering adoption, contact Smith Family Law before starting the process. Call us at 512-714-2877 for a free consultation with an experienced adoption lawyer in Austin.
Eligibility for Adopting a Child
For the most part, any adult can petition for adoption with the court. However, the petitioner must live with the child for at least six months before filing. The court might waive this requirement if it’s in the best interest of the child. Consult an adoption lawyer in Austin to navigate these requirements correctly.
There are other factors that will determine whether you can ask the court to adopt a specific child. Here are several scenarios allowing for adoption in Texas.
Termination of Parental Rights
Both biological parents must have terminated or be willing to cease their parental rights to the child. When you file a petition for adoption with the court, you can also request the termination of parental rights. An adoption lawyer in can help clarify the legal difficulties of this process. When the court ceases a person’s parental rights, it legally ends the relationship between a parent and their child. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary.
Adoption by a Stepparent
A stepparent can request to adopt a child without petitioning the court to cease both biological parents’ rights. However, the stepparent must be married to a biological parent and seek termination of the other parent’s rights.
If a judge grants your request for adoption, you will have legal conservatorship or possession of the child. This means you have legal access to the child and can make vital decisions, just like your spouse.
Parental Consent to Adoption
If a child is at least two years old, you can adopt them if one of their biological parents has their parental rights ceased and the other parent gives permission for the adoption. You must be one of these eligible parties:
- Managing conservator
- Former stepparent
- Someone who’s cared for the child for six months before seeking adoption.
Neither Parent Consents
You don’t need the consent of either parent for the adoption if the child is two or older and:
- The parental rights of one of the parents were ceased
- You are the former stepparent and were a managing conservator or had actual control, care, and possession of the child for one year before filing the lawsuit
When Is Consent a Requirement to Pursue Adoption?
The details of the case will determine which party involved must agree to the adoption for a person to file their case in court. These factors include:
- The child must consent if they are at least 12 unless the court waives the requirement because the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
- A child’s written consent is required if they have a managing conservator unless the managing conservator petitions for adoption or the court waives the requirement because it finds refusal or revocation of consent without good cause.
- Adopting a child as a married person requires the spouse to consent and join the petition for adoption.
Understanding a Child’s Best Interests
Judges use a legal standard of considering a child’s best interests when deciding on cases having to do with child custody. Collaborating with an adoption attorney in Austin can help you better understand these considerations. The court usually considers these factors while determining whether a ruling is in the child’s best interests:
- The stability of the home
- The child’s wishes under specific circumstances
- The prospective caregiver’s parental abilities
- Acts or omissions by a parent showing a parent-child relationship that is not healthy
- A parent’s excuses for the acts or omissions
- Future plans for the child
- The child’s physical and emotional needs
How Terminating Parental Rights Works
Sometimes, a child’s biological parent will file a suit to cease their parental rights. That is called voluntary relinquishment of parental rights under state law. However, the court must review the case to determine whether it is in the child’s best interest before approving the request. The court can also cease a parent’s rights if a parent signs an affidavit of voluntary relinquishment or an alleged father signs an affidavit waiving their right to the child.
You can petition the court for involuntary termination if the child’s biological parents are not willing to cease their parental rights and:
- You are a prospective adoptive parent with a statement to confer standing;
- You are someone allowed visitation or access to the child by a court order in another state or country;
- You are a foster parent of a child the Department of Family Protective Services placed in your home for at least twelve months, and the placement period ends no more than 90 days before you file your lawsuit;
- You are the uncle, aunt, sibling, grandparent, great-grandparent, nephew, or niece of the child, and
- Both of their parents are dead,
- Both parents, a surviving parent, or a managing conservator agree to the termination,
- You have had actual control, care, and possession of the child for at least six months that ends no more than 90 days before filing if you are not the foster parent,
- An affidavit of relinquishment designated you as the managing conservator of the child, or
- A written consent gives you permission to adopt the child;
- You lived with the child or their parent, conservator, or guardian for at least six months ending no more than 90 days before filing suit and the parent, conservator, or guardian of the child has died; or
- The child’s circumstances will greatly harm their emotional development or physical health.
The court will only terminate a parent-child relationship if clear and strong evidence shows the parent engaged in any of these actions:
- Voluntarily left the child alone or in someone else’s possession who is not the other parent and communicated their intent not to return;
- Voluntarily left the child alone or in another person’s possession who is not the other parent without expressing their intent to return, without providing enough support for the child, and staying away for at least three months;
- Voluntarily left the child alone or in someone else’s possession without giving the child the necessary support and staying away for at least six months;
- Knowingly placed the child or allowed them to stay in surroundings or conditions threatening the child’s emotional or physical well-being;
- Participated in conduct or knowingly placed the child with someone who engages in contact that puts the child’s physical or emotional well-being in danger;
- Failed to support the child related to their parental ability for one year ending within six months of the filed petition;
- Abandoned the child without providing identification or identifying the child and discovering the identity of the child isn’t possible with reasonable diligence;
- Voluntarily abandoned the mother of the child knowing she is pregnant, starting some time during pregnancy and continuing until the birth, failing to provide the mother with sufficient medical care or support during the abandonment before the child’s birth, and staying away from the child or failing to support them after the birth; or
- Willfully did not follow a lawful and reasonable court order under Texas Family Code Chapter 261 Subchapter D.
What to Expect When Adopting a Child
Multiple studies and reports are necessary for the court to review and determine whether a prospective adoptive parent assuming the parental rights of a child is in the child’s best interest.
Usually, the studies involved in the adoption process include:
- Observations of the child living in different environments
- Personal interviews with the child and prospective adoptive parents
- Consideration of the criminal history of someone living in the same home as the prospective adoptive parent
- Assessments of the child’s relationship with the adults involved
- Evaluations of the home where the child might reside
How the Courts Decide on Adoption Cases
Judges always use the child’s best interests as the primary factor to consider when making an adoption decision. The judge in your case will review all the available reports and studies, listen to your testimony and the testimony of anyone else involved in the case, and apply the law that is best fit under the circumstances.
You should not proceed with an adoption case without hiring an experienced adoption lawyer. Dependable legal representation is vital for adopting in Texas and protecting your rights.
Ready to Adopt a Child? Contact Smith Family Law Today
Adopting a child is a significant and life-changing decision. Although you’re ready to expand your family, following the proper laws and procedures is crucial. Smith Family Law can help you determine your eligibility to adopt and explain the various methods available.