Adoption is one of the areas of law that is almost always has a happy ending. Texas law provides for private adoptions and adoptions through an agency. There are also provisions for stepparents to adopt their stepchildren. For any adoption, even for stepparents, one of the legal requirements is that there is an adoption home study. The home study report conducted by a court appointed evaluator is one of the ways that the state assures that a child is being adopted in a safe and loving environment.
In most agency adoptions, the children have been in foster care in a home that has been licensed through a foster agency. When the child becomes eligible for adoption, if the foster parents are adopting, they still go through a home study process before they are cleared for adoption.
Once the home study of any adoptive parent is complete, and the child is eligible for adoption, a petition for adoption is then filed in court. A prove-up hearing is scheduled, then we go to court and prove up the adoption. The adoption will be final on the same day as the court hearing.
There are more steps in a private adoption. In a private adoption, the biological parents must relinquish their parental rights and those rights are designated to the potential adoptive parents. When this is done, and the home study completed, the petition is filed, a prove up hearing scheduled where the adoption is then finalized.
A stepparent adoption does not have to go through an agency. The main issue with this type of adoption is that the biological parent must voluntarily relinquish his or her parental rights, or the court may terminate them.
There are many grounds in Texas that can result in the termination of parental rights, such as failing to support the child. If there are grounds to terminate, I would have the client meet with me to talk about that and decide together how to proceed.
If the rights are voluntarily relinquished, this makes the process much easier for the stepparent to adopt. The parent relinquishing rights will be relieved of any future obligation to pay child support. If there are child support payments in arrears, we can reach an agreement as to how they will be paid, or the receiving parent may be willing to waive any arrearages in exchange for the termination of rights.