Adoption is a process by which a child is adopted and rights of one or both parents is terminated. Please refer to our blog post The Legal Challenges of Adoption for more information about adoption. Termination is a necessary component to the Texas adoption process.
The following individuals have standing to bring an adoption or termination suit:
- A stepparent of the child;
- An adult, who because of placement for adoption, has had actual possession and control of the child at any time during the 30 days prior to the filing of the petition;
- An adult, who has had actual possession of the child in two out of the three months prior to the filing of the petition;
- An adult who has adopted, or is the foster parent of and has petitioned to adopt a sibling of the child; or
- Another adult whom the court considers to have had enough substantial past contact with the child to create standing.
Substantial past contact does not have a statutory definition. To find substantial past contact, the court makes a fact-intensive inquiry, but there are no set standards for this aspect of the Texas adoption process.
Involuntary parental rights termination
Because termination of parental rights, even for adoption, is akin to the civil death penalty. A higher burden of proof is required for termination cases: clear and convincing evidence rather than the preponderance of the evidence. Thus, involuntary termination is complex. Additionally, a parent facing a termination suit has a right to a jury trial. Just like the death penalty in criminal cases, civil judges are reluctant to grant terminations except in cases of abuse and neglect. This is even true when a stepparent wishes to adopt the child and terminate one parent’s parental rights.
Voluntary parental rights terminations
If the termination of parental rights for adoption is voluntary, after a petition for termination is filed, the next step is to secure the Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. This affidavit must be signed after the child’s birth and be witnessed by two credible persons. If a stepparent is adopting the child, during this part of the Texas adoption process, the stepparent can exercise the rights of a managing conservator. If this happens, the affidavit must include a statement acknowledging that the parent who is relinquishing their parental rights has been informed of their parental rights and voluntarily give the adoptive parent or parents all their parental rights and duties.
The affidavit must also state whether the relinquishment is revocable, irrevocable, or that is irrevocable for a stated period of time. If the affidavit does not state that it is irrevocable, it is revocable for a stated period of time.
A copy of the affidavit
An important and often overlooked procedural step of termination of parental rights for adoption is that when the affidavit is signed by the parent, he or she must be provided a copy of the affidavit. This can become an issue if the adoption later becomes contested, complicating the Texas adoption process. Also, the affidavit may not contain any terms for post-termination contact between the child and the parent whose parental rights have been relinquished as a condition for the relinquishment.
Consult with an adoption attorney
If you or a loved one is involved in an adoption or termination suit or would like to be involved in one, consider your options carefully and consult with the knowledgeable attorneys at Ramos Law Group, PLLC.