Are you looking to grow your family? Does your spouse have a child from another relationship and that other parent is absent and you want to embrace that child as his/her real mom/dad? Do you have possession of a child whom has been abandoned by his/her parents and you want to give that child a loving home and become his/her legal parent?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, here are a few things you should know about the adoption process.
TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS
Termination and Adoption goes hand-in-hand. Before you can legally obtain parental rights of a child, the biological absent parent must have their parental rights terminated.
If, for example, your husband has a child from another relationship, and the child’s biological mother is absent, she must have her rights as the child’s parent terminated. According to the Texas Family Code, this can occur in one of two ways:
the biological parent voluntarily relinquishes his/her parental rights; consents to the termination and signs all necessary documents to be submitted to the court; and it is proven to be in the best interest of the child; or
the biological parent has committed one or more acts of severe abuse or neglect toward that child and it is proven to be in the best interest of the child.
WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHERE OR WHO THE OTHER PARENT IS?
If you can not locate the other biological parent or do not know who the other biological parent is, the court will appoint an Ad Litem Attorney to represent the other parent, and an Amicus Attorney to represent the child—at your expense.
The other parents’ right must be terminated. Regardless of whether or not you believe he/she is deserving of parental rights, he/she is the biological parent none-the-less. Procedures exist for locating the missing parent and DNA testing can help identify the biological mother or father of that child.
Once an order terminating parental rights is entered with the court, whether reached through agreement or trial, the other parent no longer has any rights to the child—none.
- No conservatorship rights;
- No rights to possession and access; and
- The child support obligation ceases.
ADOPTIONTo be eligible to adopt a child, that child must have resided with you for a minimum of six consecutive months, and the following documents must be filed with the court:
- Criminal background check – completed by the Department of Public Safety for each adult in your home;
- Social Study Report – an interview with all members of the household and an evaluation of your home environment, family interaction, motivation for adopting, the manner in which you parent, background, financial stability, etc.; and
- Adoptive Readiness Summary – or rather, an “HSEGH” (health, social, educational and genetic history) report of the child.
Although this may feel intrusive, the court must confirm the best interest of the child will be met by granting the adoption.
Once all of the proper pleadings and required documents have been filed with the court, you may proceed with finalizing the adoption—there is no waiting period. In the final order, you may include a name change for the child. A certified copy of the final order will enable you to obtain a new Social Security number for the child as well as a updated Birth Certificate naming you as that child’s parent.
To protect the privacy of the adopting parent(s) and the adopted child, adoption records are sealed by the court. However, the Department of State Health Services maintains a Central Adoption Registry. If, in the future, the biological parent and/or adopted child mutually decide to reconnect, this will permit them to do so.
Once the adoption process is complete, and the child is forever yours, you may want to consider obtaining or revising life and health insurance, and updating your Last Will and Testament to include the newest member of your family. The Law Office of Nancy E. Lusk can assist you with several of these documents.