Thinking about Adoption? Here Are the Basics

Are you considering adoption? This wonderful choice on your part can bring a great deal of joy in the creation of a new family. In fact, most attorneys who practice family law and judges in family courts will tell you that adoption cases are the only happy cases they deal with and happen far too infrequently. The adoption process is complicated and must be done correctly to avoid unforeseen and sometimes tragic consequences. Here are the basic facts that you need to know concerning adoption:

1. What is the legal definition of “adoption”? Adoption is defined as “A two-step judicial process in conformance to state statutory provisions in which the legal obligations and rights of a child toward the biological parents are terminated and new rights and obligations are created between the child and the adoptive parents.” In other words, the parental rights of the biological parents must be terminated (legally or by death) prior to the adoption being completed.

2. Who can adopt? Texas adoption laws allow just about any adult to adopt a child (although the consent of the child is usually required if he or she is 12 years of age or older). United States citizenship is not a prerequisite to adoption. Texas law does not explicitly prohibit adoption by unmarried couples or same-sex couples. Some courts refuse to allow unmarried couples or two individuals of the same sex to both become legal parents of a child. There is a lack of consistency among the courts regarding the issue, and whether or not an unmarried couple or a same-sex couple are allowed to adopt. This may very well depend on the judge assigned to the case.

3. What is the legal procedure? This is a very simplistic overview of the legal procedure for completing an adoption. The formal steps in the adoption of a child are generally uniform in all states. The parents seeking to adopt must file a petition in a court that has jurisdiction over the parties and the child. The petition supplies basic information to the court about themselves as well as the child. The petition also includes the names of the biological parents, if known. Written consent of the adoption agency or the child’s biological parents accompanies the petition if the rights of the biological parents have not previously been terminated. The Court (in most states, including Texas) will order an adoptive home screening and criminal history search be conducted to examine whether or not the adoption should be granted. Once the prerequisites have been met, the Court then conducts a hearing to either grant or deny the petition. If granted, a Decree of Adoption is entered and the parent-child relationship is created between the child and the adoptive parents for all purposes.

You should be commended for adopting a child into your home. But please consult with an attorney that is knowledgeable in the area of adoption to take you through the process.

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