Adoptions

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.

Termination of rights

If a biological parent petitions the court to have their child adopted by their spouse and the child’s other biological parent agrees to have their rights terminated, for the adoption to occur, Izzo & Associates must first draft and have an affidavit for voluntary relinquishment of parental rights executed. The appropriate time period must then expire before an adoption proceeding may take place.

Some biological parents are absent from a child’s life or fail to take visitations or pay child support for the benefit of their child. In some of these cases, the non-participatory biological parent will agree to terminate his or her parental rights, smoothing the way for the adoption process. In other cases, non-participating biological parents contest our client’s motion to have their rights terminated, even though they don’t pay child support, or do not participate in their child’s life, merely because they do not like the concept of a stepparent taking their place. These scenarios have placed our clients in the position of attempting involuntary terminations.

When an involuntary termination request is filed, a contested court hearing must be held, generally involving presenting witnesses and evidence to the court requesting that the involuntary termination be granted for just cause. These cases can be very tricky, and you must have an experienced family law attorney by your side to help you through the process.

Prospective clients sometimes ask if they can terminate their parental rights due to the alienation of their children at the hands of their child’s other parent. This is certainly a sad situation, but it does occur. Additionally, we have encountered the same request because a parent with a child support obligation does not want to continue to pay child support. The answer to both of these scenarios is basically the same. In the first instance, it is highly unlikely that a court would allow the termination. In such cases, our firm would, however, be able to file pleadings requesting that numerous court actions be initiated to end and possibly reverse the alienation or even change custody of the child. In the second scenario, however, it is highly unlikely that any court would grant a termination simply because an obligor does not wish to support their child.

This is just a brief overview of the adoption and termination processes. Please feel free to call us about your specific situation, and we’ll let you know how we can help. You can also check out Title 5: The Parent-Child Relationship and the Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship of the Texas Family Code, or you can continue browsing to learn more about Izzo & Associates.