This page details the main types of adoption under the Texas courts. Please call and speak with Kevin Sralla, a San Antonio family lawyer, we can also set up a free consultation to discuss your situation in person.
There are various categories of adoption allowed in the state of Texas. Adoptions are either handled privately without the intervention of an adoption agency (private adoptions), or through a licensed adoption agency (agency adoptions). There are domestic adoptions, where adoptive parents adopt a child from the United States, and International adoptions, where the child being adopted here in the United States is born and actually lives in a foreign country. There are also open adoptions, in which the birth parents and adoptive know each other’s identities and continue to maintain contact with each other after the adoption is completed, anonymous adoptions, where the birth parents are not allowed to learn the identity of the adoptive parents and designated adoptions, in which the adoptive parents designate an expectant mother and seek to adopt her unborn child. Finally, there are stepparent adoptions and relative adoptions, a subcategory of private adoptions. In this category of adoption, a step-parent or relative close to the child being adopted is the adoptive parent.
Each type of adoption necessarily involves the termination of the birth parents’ right and a pre-adoptive home screening and post-placement report. The is essentially a home study prepared by a social worker in order to examine the fitness of the adoptive parents and the home environment into which the adopted child would be placed. Whichever type of adoption you are seeking, as a family lawyer practicing since 1999, I can provide the type of quality legal representation that will enable your adoption to progress smoothly and efficiently through the procedural hurdles and mazes of forms required to execute and finalize an adoption in Texas.
A private adoption is one that proceeds without the assistance or involvement of a licensed adoption agency. These adoptions generally involve a birth mother relinquishing her child directly to the adoptive parents but, in some instances, involve a step-parent adopting his/her spouse’s child with whom he/she has been living for at least six months or a relative adopting a niece, nephew or sibling with whom they have lived for at least six months. Texas law requires that the adoptive parents identities be made known to the birth parents. This is in contrast to some agency adoptions, where the adoptive parents are allowed to remain anonymous in some instances. In a private adoption setting, hiring the right attorney matters. It is critical to find an attorney with sufficient experience and skill to ensure that all the proper papers and forms are filed, that all the prerequisites to adoption are met and that the procedural waters of the court system are navigated effectively and efficiently. I have substantial experience in handling even the most complex adoption cases with great success. Contact Sralla Law Offices for an experienced, skilled San Antonio, Texas adoption attorney to assist you in this very important, life-changing process.
Agency adoptions are those facilitated by a licensed adoption agency. In such an adoption the agency places the child directly with the adoptive parents, after interviewing and thoroughly vetting their abilities and fitness to handle the responsibilities of becoming adoptive parents. The identities of the birth parents may remain confidential or may be disclosed to the adoptive parents. Adoptive parents who are adopting through an agency may also be allowed to provide living expenses for the birth mother, as well as legal, medical and counseling services for the mother who has agreed to give her child up for adoption. Whether you elect to proceed through an agency or through private channels, it is important to have an experienced litigator and adoption attorney by your side. My experience and documented success in the courtroom enable me to provide top-notch services for my clients. Call Sralla Law Offices to set an appointment with a successful, experienced San Antonio, Texas adoption attorney today.
Domestic adoptions are those in which both the adoptive parents and the child to be adopted reside in the United States. Obviously, domestic adoptions can be processed privately or through agency channels.
International adoptions involve situations where adoptive parents endeavor to adopt a child from overseas or from a foreign country. Such adoptions are typically handled through adoption agencies, but can also processed as private adoptions. Texas law, as recently amended, provides for recognition of foreign adoption decrees in Texas courts. This amendment was made necessary by the fact that international adoptions are often finalized overseas and the desire of adoptive parents to have the adoption decree recognized in their home state. At Sralla Law Offices, we are equipped to help guide you through this foreign decree recognition process.
OPEN AND ANONYMOUS ADOPTIONS
An open adoption is one in which the adoptive parents know the identity of the birth parents and maintain some measure of contact with the biological mother and/or father of the adopted child. In a private adoption setting, the parties are allowed to determine the amount and nature of the contact to be maintained between the adoptive and birth parents as the child grows older.
Anonymous adoptions are a subset of agency adoptions. They involve a scenario where the adoptive parents know virtually nothing or very little about the identity of the birth parents. Typically, adoptive parents will be allowed to learn only the most generic facts about the adoptive parents. In today’s world, however, many agencies combine the best of both categories, by allowing the adoptive parents and birth parents to meet to discuss goals, visions and philosophies applicable to the adopted child’s future, while not sharing names or addresses. Agencies utilize this meeting as part of the process for finding a good match between adoptive parents and the birth family of the child. Anonymous adoptions can only be facilitated through the Texas Department of Human Services or a licensed adoption agency.
A designated adoption is one where prospective adoptive parents locate and identify a pregnant woman for purposes of adopting her child. Designated adoption can proceed either through an agency or a private adoption process. Designated adoptions may be open or anonymous. Among the key advantages to allowing an agency to oversee a designated adoption is the fact that the parties will have the full range of agency resources at their disposal. In addition, if the adoptive parents back out midway through the process, or are vetoed by a social worker operating through the agency, the agency can operate to identify other prospective parents to step into the shoes of adoptive parents.
Among the disadvantages are the difficulty the parties have in locating each other for purposes of a designated adoption. After locating a birth mother willing to relinquish her child to adoption, adoptive parents are typically so eager to complete the process and become parents that they often will agree to whatever demands the birth mother makes, only to renege on such demands after the adoption is completed and the adoptive parents are thinking more clearly. Moreover, purported contracts between birth mothers and adoptive parents for the terms of a designated adoption often do not withstand scrutiny in court and often have little or no bearing on the finalization of the adoption. This can constitute another distinct disadvantage to proceeding with a designated adoption.
Agencies that assist with designated adoptions also reserve the right to refuse adoption to prospective parents who are clearly not qualified to adopt or where there exist other valid reasons to reject the adoptive parents’ application. This type of scenario is typically directly related to a negative home study report that reveals something inappropriate for adoption about the prospective parents. On the other hand, if the home study is favorable to the adoptive parents and they are approved by the Court, there is little the birth mother can do to reverse the process if she changes her mind late in the process.
A step-parent adoption involves a scenario whereby a step-parent moves to adopt his/her spouse’s child that has been living with the adoptive parent for at least six months. This process could also be executed by a relative, e.g. an aunt, uncle, older sibling or grandparent, of the child to be adopted. The process starts with the filing of a petition for step-parent adoption and concurrent request for the termination of the birth parents’ parental rights. Termination can be based on a number of factors, the most common of which are a birth parent’s abandonment of the child for a lengthy period of time while expressing an intent not to return, a birth parent’s failure to support the child financially for a substantial period of time and the execution by a birth parent of an Affidavit for Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights. Termination of parental rights is a legal prerequisite for a step-parent adoption.
Once the termination process has been completed, the Court will order the preparation of a pre-adoptive home screening and post placement report (“home study”) into the circumstances, living conditions, overall home environment and fitness of the adoptive parent to take responsibility for his/her stepchild. Texas law also requires, in addition to a completed home study, a genetic history and criminal background report on the prospective parent.
After all the proper documents are approved and on file with the Court, and assuming no party has issued a legal challenge to the adoption, the Court will hear the testimony of the adoptive step-parent, his or her spouse and any other necessary party to the adoption and presumably grant the adoption.
Often times, the biological parent whose rights are subject to termination is unknown or cannot be located. In such a case, the Court will typically appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of the missing party in the case. When this process in invoked, the attorney ad litem will exercise due diligence to locate the missing party for purposes of providing him/her an opportunity to object to or challenge the termination of his/her parental rights. If the attorney ad litem is unable to locate the missing party, he/she will report such findings, or a lack thereof, to the Court at final hearing.
While in other types of adoptions, the Court may appoint a guardian ad litem to safeguard the interests of the child or children involved, the Court typically will not do so in a step-parent adoption because the biological parent (spouse of the adoptive parent) is the managing conservator of the child or children and is usually deemed able to sufficiently represent the interests of his/her child or children.
My years of experience handling step-parent adoption make a tangible difference for my clients because, through experience and proven results, I have developed a manner of processing step-parent adoption cases that is effective and efficient. This is of vital importance to adoptive parents seeking to execute an adoption because any procedural misstep can cost crucial time for the client and, in some case, threaten the adoption process itself. So, contact an experienced, proven lawyer to handle your adoption in San Antonio, Texas.
Kevin “Buck” Sralla
Welcome, I am Kevin “Buck” Sralla, an experienced family law attorney in San Antonio, TX. I am licensed to practice in Texas state courts and skilled at advocating for my clients’ rights whether the setting be in a courtroom before a judge or jury or an informal mediation or settlement negotiation process.