Adoption is a gift that lasts a lifetime for a parent and child. Adoption in and of itself is a legal process that is subject to the laws of the state where the adoption is taking place. Different states have different laws governing adoption and at times Federal law may also apply. Texas residents of Houston and Harris County are subject to the adoption laws of the state. Seeking the counsel of a Houston Family Law firm with experience in working the Harris County Family Courts is an essential first step in the adoption process. The Houston adoption process is a legal mine field if not navigated by a Family Law professional.
As every parent and child are different, so too are the circumstances under which an adoption is sought and placed. A Family Law Attorney is best equipped to customize varying circumstances to the adoption laws as written. It is important for the placing biological parent and agency to also understand the ramifications of adoption as far as parental rights are concerned and post adoption contact. When the child is conceived out-of-wedlock, the rights of a putative or supposed father is also taken into consideration under the law. The following is a brief summary of some of the legal issues relevant to the adoption process:
Access to Adoption Records
Inherent within the adoption records is information about the birth parent, birth certificate of the child and birth parent health history. Information is divided into identifying and non-identifying data. Adoptive parents are entitled to all non-identifying information at the time of adoption and the adoptee is eligible upon reaching the age of 18. Identifying information may be obtained by an adoptee upon reaching majority age, as well as the birth parent, father with proven paternity and a blood related sibling of the adoptee who has also reached the age of 18.
Post Adoption Contact Agreement
In the state of Texas, a termination order of the parent-child relationship may include provisions for the birth parent to receive information about the child, have written communication sent to the child and limited visitation. The agreement is between the biological parent and the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. However, this does not translate to any order of adoption unless the adoptive parents and birth parent choose to execute a written contract with the specifics for any post adoption contact with the birth parent, extended birth family or birth siblings.
Texas law establishes legal definitions for birth fathers under the terms presumed or adjudicated. A birth father is presumed if he meets one or more legal criteria, not the least of which is he is married to the birth mother or named as the father on the birth certificate. An adjudicated father has been deemed to be the birth father by a court of law. Texas maintains a putative father registry within the Bureau of Vital Statistics for birth fathers who seek notification of any adoption proceedings involving their birth children. Laws regarding putative father rights were established after the infamous Baby Richard case in 1995. The Illinois Supreme Court revoked an adoption in order to give the birth father legal custody. The ruling was based on the fact that the father had not been apprised of the birth of the child and therefore was denied consent in the adoption process.
The regulation of adoption expenses is addressed under Texas law in relation to the birth parent, payments for arranging for an adoption or relinquishing a child and fees charged by an adoption agency or service. These laws exist to protect all legal parties to an adoption and criminally prosecute any parties who are not authorized to engage in same. The laws are meant to ensure that children are not being bought or sold and birth parents are not being coerced to give up their children.
Adoption also involves a number of other situations that are addressed by state law. Hiring a Houston Family Law Firm from the onset of the decision to adopt will prove highly beneficial to all of the parties involved in the process.