Welcoming a new member into the family via adoption is an exciting time for families. However, the adoption process can be challenging and confusing. The Ramos Law Firm can pair you with an adoption attorney to help you and your family members with the legal adoptions of both children and adults. The Ramos Law Firm focuses on stepparent adoptions and adoption cases where the child has been previously placed with a prospective adoptive parent, either by Child Protective Services or via a family member, for an extended period of time. If you want to adopt a child, we can help make that dream a reality. We will provide you information necessary to determine if you meet the Texas Family Code requirements for an adoption and help you formalize your new family structure.
What is an adoption?
An adoption is a legal arrangement where parental rights are transferred from the natural or birth parents to the adoptive parents. An adoption lawyer is imperative in this process. The adoptive parents then become legally responsible for the child they adopt and they obtain all legal parental rights with regard to the child, as if the child were biologically born to them.
What is the Adoption Process in Houston, Texas?
The adoption process in Texas consists of the following:
- Pre-Adoptive Home Study – As your adoption attorney will explain to you, this is a report prepared by a licensed social worker with experience specific to adoption studies. The information collected during a home study helps the Court decide that an adoption is in the best interest of the child. This process is a very detailed review of the adoptive parents and includes the following:
- Interview of adoptive parents
- Verification of legal documents
- Letters of reference from friends and family
- Confirmation of finanical status
- Criminal history check
- Child abuse check
- Termination of Parental Rights – Before a child can be adopted, one or both of biological parents’ rights must be terminated. In Texas, this can be done voluntarily or involuntary under certain circumstances. With guidance from your adoption attorney, Houston law will become clearer to navigate.
- Final Adoption – Once a termination has been completed and other requirements have been met, a judge will hear the final case and approve an adoption.
- In Harris County adoptions most Courts require a pre-trial conference to ensure that all of the paperwork has been correctly completed prior to bringing the child to finalize the adoption.
- In most Houston area adoptions an amicus or ad litem attorney must be appointed to insure that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
What is a Stepparent adoption?
The most common form of adoption in the state of Texas – and thus the type that your Houston adoption lawyer will likely have the most experience with – is a stepparent adoption. A stepparent adoption of a stepchild creates a permanent and legal parent-child relationship; in the eyes of the law it is as if the stepparent is a biological parent. This means that even if the step-parent and biological parent were to be divorced, the parent-child relationship would survive between the step-parent and the child.
For any sort of adoption to occur, first one of the biological parent’s rights must be terminated. This is possible when a biological parent has either voluntarily relinquished their rights or the parental rights of a parent have been terminated by the State due to abandonment, abuse/neglect or being deemed as an unfit parent. Your adoption attorney can further explain any questions you may have about these requirements. Termination of one’s parental rights is taken very seriously by the Courts so there must be good cause for a parent’s rights to be terminated or relinquished if the termination is not voluntary.
Frequently, the legal proceedings for both the adoption and the termination may be combined into one legal case. The Court then must make two determinations: first that it is in the best interest of the child that a parent’s rights be terminated and second that it is in the child’s best interest that the adoption be granted.
Before an adoption may be granted, your adoption lawyer must ensure that certain requirements must be met. The Texas Family Code requires that the child must have lived with the proposed adoptive parent for at least six months before an adoption can be finalized. A child over the age of 12 must consent to the adoption. A stepparent adoption also requires that the married couple must both participate in filing the petition for adoption. The prospective parents must provide a copy of their criminal records to the court. A home study must also be completed before a judge can approve an adoption. Only once all of these requirements have been satisfied may your Houston adoption lawyer move forward to finalize your adoption.. It is critical to hire an attorney familiar with adoptions to make sure that every requirement is completed. As a last step of the adoption process your family may be change the child’s last name to reflect that of the adoptive parent or family.
Once the adoption is complete, Texas law no longer recognizes the adoptive parent as a stepparent; the adoptive parent now has all the duties, rights and obligations to the child as the biological parent.
Need an experienced Adoption Lawyers In Houston? For more information contact us today! You’ll be one step closer to finding an adoption attorney you can count on.