There are many different reasons why a person may wish to seek an adoption. Sometimes a child is placed with a foster family and the foster family, once eligible may decide to proceed with an adoption. Other times one parent may be remarried and the step-parent will want to become legally bound to the child through a step-parent adoption. The basic test for whether an adoption can take place is whether adoption is in the best interest of the child.
An adoption cannot happen unless one or both parent’s rights have been terminated. This can be accomplished by a joint Petition for Adoption and Termination of Parental Rights. Even if the parent has not been in the child’s life, a termination must take place to terminate that parents rights before an adoption can proceed. That parent must be served with process and given an opportunity to contest the adoption or sign an Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental rights. Chapter 161 of the Texas Family Code sets outs the grounds for a termination to take place. If those grounds are met and termination is in the best interest of the child, then a judge will order that parent’s rights termination.
A parent cannot seek termination on their own for the sole purpose of ending their obligation to pay child support. That will not be in the best interest of the child. The child support obligation is set up for the benefit of the child, regardless of whether a parent chooses to exercise their visitation rights.
Once a termination has taken place, the adoption can proceed. Chapter 162 of the Texas Family Code covers the requirements for an adoption in Texas. In some instances, this can be a combined proceeding. An attorney ad litem representing the child will usually be appointed, and will oversee the proceedings and insure that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. A health, social, education and genetic history report is required to be filed for adoption that do not involve relatives or step-parents. A pre-adoptive and post-placement social study must be prepared and filed with the court. This involves an investigation and report by an independent third party as it relates to the home conditions and bond with the child. A criminal history report is also filed to the court by the individual seeking to adopt the child. Once all the requirements are met, a final hearing will be conducted. At the final hearing the judge will review all the documents filed in the case, as well as hear testimony from witnesses about the best interests of the child. A typical adoption takes around 3 months, but can take much longer if there are contested issues.