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Houston Divorce & Family Law Attorney Richard J. Tholstrup

The Tholstrup Law Firm, L.P.

440 Louisiana, Suite 800
Houston, Texas 77002
    2002 Timberloch, Suite 200
The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Phone: 713.225.1280 Fax: 713.225.1344
E-Mail:  tholstru@sbcglobal.net
Home Page:  www.tholstruplaw.com

Family Law Attorney Richard J. Tholstrup

FAMILY LAW: TERMINATION/ADOPTION

For more details on the following child adoption related issues, click on the links below

1. When will a court terminate a parent-child relationship?
2. When can a court terminate the parent-child relationship of a biological father who can not be found?
3. Does a parent have any responsibilities to the child once their parent-child relationship has been terminated?
4. What is the process for terminating a parent-child relationship?
5. Are there any age limitations when adopting a child?
6. Must a person make a certain amount of income to adopt a child?
7. Are two parents required for an adoption?
8. May a homosexual adopt a child?
9. What background information does a person have to provide to adopt a child?
10. How long must a child live in the adoptive home before an adoption can occur?
11. How long does it take to adopt a child?
12. What is the process for adopting a child?
13. How much does it cost to adopt a child?

1. When will a court terminate a parent-child relationship?
A court may terminate a parent-child relationship if a person voluntarily files a suit for termination of the personís parent-child relationship if the court finds termination is in the best interest of the child.

A court may also terminate a parent-child relationship without the consent of the parent if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence:

1) that the parent has:

(A) voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent and expressed an intent not to return;

(B) voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another not the parent without expressing an intent to return, without providing for the adequate support of the child, and remained away for a period of at least three months;

(C) voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child and remained away for a period of at least six months;

(D) knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child;

(E) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child

(F) failed to support the child in accordance with the parent's ability during a period of one year ending within six months of the date of the filing of the petition;

(G) abandoned the child without identifying the child or furnishing means of identification, and the child's identity cannot be ascertained by the exercise of reasonable diligence;

(H) voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy with the child and continuing through the birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during the period of abandonment before the birth of the child, and remained apart from the child or failed to support the child since the birth;

(I) contumaciously refused to submit to a reasonable and lawful order of a court under Subchapter D, Chapter 261;

(J) been the major cause of:
     (i) the failure of the child to be enrolled in school as required by the Education Code; or
     (ii) the child's absence from the child's home without the consent of the parents or guardian for a         substantial length of time or without the intent to return;

(K) executed before or after the suit is filed an unrevoked or irrevocable affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights as provided by this chapter;

(L) been convicted or has been placed on community supervision, including deferred adjudication community supervision, for being criminally responsible for the death or serious injury of a child;

(M) had his or her parent-child relationship terminated with respect to another child based on a finding that the parent's conduct was in violation of Paragraph (D) or (E) or substantially equivalent provisions of the law of another state;

(N) constructively abandoned the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services or an authorized agency for not less than six months, and;
   (i) the department or authorized agency has made reasonable efforts to return the child to the parent;
   (ii) the parent has not regularly visited or maintained significant contact with the child; and
   (iii) the parent has demonstrated an inability to provide the child with a safe environment;

(O) failed to comply with the provisions of a court order that specifically established the actions necessary for the parent to obtain the return of the child who has been in the permanent or temporary managing conservatorship of the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services for not less than nine months as a result of the child's removal from the parent under Chapter 262 for the abuse or neglect of the child;

(P) used a controlled substance, as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner that endangered the health or safety of the child, and:
   (i) failed to complete a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program; or
   (ii) after completion of a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program, continued to abuse a controlled substance

(Q) knowingly engaged in criminal conduct that has resulted in the parent's:
   (i) conviction of an offense; and
   (ii) confinement or imprisonment and inability to care for the child for not less than two years from the date of filing the petition;

(R) been the cause of the child being born addicted to alcohol or a controlled substance, other than a controlled substance legally obtained by prescription, as defined by Section 261.001; or

(S) voluntarily delivered the child to a designated emergency infant care provider under Section 262.302 without expressing an intent to return for the child; and that termination is in the best interest of the child.

2. When can a court terminate the parent-child relationship of a biological father who can not be found?
The rights of an alleged father may be terminated if:

(1) after being served with citation, he does not respond by timely filing an admission of paternity or a counterclaim for paternity;
(2) he has not registered with the paternity registry, and after the exercise of due diligence by the petitioner:

(A) his identity and location are unknown; or
(B) his identity is known but he cannot be located; or he has registered with the paternity registry, but the petitioner's attempt to personally serve citation at the address provided to the registry and at any other address for the alleged father known by the petitioner has been unsuccessful, despite the due diligence of the petitioner.

3. Does a parent have any responsibilities to the child once their parent-child relationship has been terminated?
No. However, child support arrearages that were accumulated prior to the termination continue unless they are addressed/resolved by the Order of Termination.

4. What is the process for terminating a parent-child relationship?
A Petition for Termination is filed in the county where the child resides or the county where the potential adoptive parents reside. If the biological parents are voluntarily giving up their parental rights, an Affidavit of Voluntary Relinquishment of Parental Rights for one or both biological parents is filed with the Petition or in the courtís file where the Petition is filed following the filing of the Petition. An attorney ad litem is appointed to represent the child in the termination proceeding. If one or more of the biological parents contests the termination, the filing proceeds like any other lawsuit, and is concluded with either a bench or jury trial.

The Petition for Termination may be filed prior to a childís birth, but the Affidavits of Voluntary Relinquishment may not be signed until 48 hours after the birth of the child.

5. Are there any age limitations when adopting a child?
There are no age limitations for a person attempting to adopt a child. Texas law even provides for adult adoptions. There are no age limitations on the adoptive parents, as reflected by the large number of grandparent adoptions done in Texas. The adoptive parents must usually be able to care for the child to the age of majority (age 18), so there may be some practical limitation to the age of the adoptive parents.

6. Must a person earn a certain amount of income to adopt a child?
There is no income requirement for a person to adopt a child.

7. Are two parents required for an adoption?
A single person may adopt a child, but, the court must find that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.

8. May a homosexual adopt a child?
A homosexual may adopt a child if the court finds that the adoption is in the best interest of the child. It is rare/almost impossible that a court would find adoption by two unmarried adults, homosexual or heterosexual, would be in the best interest of a child.

9. What background information does a person have to provide to adopt a child?
A person seeking to adopt a child must provide the personís own criminal history record information to the court and have their home environment screened by an agency appointed by the court. Additionally, a health, social, educational and genetic history may be required of the biological parents.

10. How long must a child live in the adoptive home before an adoption can occur?
A court will not grant an adoption until the child has resided with the person(s) requesting the adoption for not less than six months, unless the court, upon request, finds that a waiver of the residence requirement is in the best interest of the child.

11. How long does it take to adopt a child?
Because of the 6 months residency requirements, an adoption generally takes 6 to 12 months from start to finish. If the process is an interstate adoption or one of the biological parents cannot be located, the process can take 18-24 months.

12. What is the process for adopting a child?
A Termination and Adoption may be done as one lawsuit or two separate lawsuits. The termination is done separately if there is concern the birth parents may change their minds. If the termination is already complete, a Petition for Adoption is prepared and filed with the appropriate court in the county where the adoptive parents reside. A criminal background check is conducted on the adoptive parent(s) and a social study is conducted of the adoptive home. An ad litem is appointed to represent the interests of the child who interviews all the parties involved with the child and makes an evaluation of whether the adoption will be in the best interests of the child. Additionally, a health, social, educational and genetic history may be required of the biological parents. Once all the foregoing is completed, the adoptive parents and the child must make a court appearance to prove up the adoption and get an Order of Adoption entered with the court.

13. How much does it cost to adopt a child?
Adoptions have a wide range in costs depending on the circumstances and whether an agency is involved, the adoption involves a surrogate mother, the child is from a foreign country, etc. A fair range of costs are $2,500 to $35,000, depending on the complexity of the case. A federal tax credit (not deduction) of +$10,000.00 may be available to off set the cost of adoption. To learn more, simply go to www.irs.gov and do a search on the term ďadoptionĒ.