Although this section involves both the creation of new parental rights, as well as the ending of a biological parent’s parental rights, these seemingly opposite requests do tie together quite often when an adoption is filed.
Let’s begin with a discussion of the legal process of adoption. Judges love adoptions. This is one of the few legal matters wherein a family court judge may be able to participate in a happy event in a child’s life, as opposed to presiding over contested cases. Adoptions involve a responsible adult stepping forward to assume the care of a child and even sometimes establishing a parent-child relationship with another adult.
Many adoptions involve either a stepparent wishing to become the child’s legal father or mother or another caring adult or adults requesting that they be granted the legal rights of a parent for a child whose biological parents are either unknown, deceased or have had their rights terminated for cause. Prospective adoptive parents should always be advised to hire legal counsel to file the appropriate pleadings to request adoption. Adoptions are complicated. The Texas Family Code requires that an adoption evaluation, or a “home study,” be conducted in adoptions involving minors to ensure that the home of the adoptive parent or parents is a fit and proper place for the child’s upbringing. The court also can require that an attorney or guardian ad litem be appointed to represent or look into the child’s best interests.
Also, the court will require a criminal background check for the prospective adoptive parent or parents.
After completion of the various steps that the court requires, a final hearing is held in which the ad litem reports his or her findings, as applicable, the home study and background check(s) is submitted, and the new adoptive parent or parents are officially recognized. Generally, at this point, the child’s birth certificate is changed, and the records are sealed. The child’s name can also be changed as part of the adoption process.