Adoption is a serious, emotional, and legally binding occurrence in which children will not be raised by their birth parents but will become permanent members of another family. There are many facets to adoption, and it can affect people differently. I know first-hand as a child of adoption myself.
On top of the life-altering nature of adoption, each state has specific laws around adoption. What may apply in one state may not be applicable in Texas. So, if you are involved in an adoption legal matter, you may have legal questions about whether a biological parent can regain custody after the adoption is complete. Let’s look at it from all perspectives — whether you are the adoptive parent or the biological parent.
General Law About Child Adoption in Texas
The parent-child relationship is sacred. There are specific laws in place to protect children, especially in cases that determine their permanent custody. Essentially, the family court will always work toward what is in the best interest of the child.
In most cases, once a biological parent relinquishes the child and terminates parental rights, it is rare for a court to allow the parent(s) to regain their rights. It must be proved that the biological parents’ rights were terminated due to fraud, extreme duress, or a very unique circumstance. Let’s review the legal situation from both perspectives.
Biological Parents’ Perspective on Adoption in Texas
There are two unique legal situations from the perspective of the biological parents. One involves consent from both biological parents, and the other involves consent from only the biological mother.
Assuming Consent from Both Biological Parents
In the state of Texas, a birth mother must wait until 48 hours after the child’s birth before she can sign the legally binding document to terminate her parental rights. This same rule applies to the husband or biological father if unmarried.
According to Texas Family Code Title 5, once biological parents voluntarily relinquish their parental rights, then legally (by affidavit), they have consented to terminate the parent-child relationship and agree it is in the best interest of the child.
Once the birth parents relinquish their parental rights, it’s rare that any court will reverse that decision. Texas Family Code cites that once rights are relinquished, this is irrevocable unless the document was signed under fraud or duress.
A court can also order parents to terminate their parental rights if a judge determines this is what’s in the best interest of the child. The parents no longer have legal rights and parental duties. However, they are allowed to leave the child an inheritance unless the court says otherwise.
Assuming Consent from the Biological Mother Only
Generally, both biological parents need to give consent to adoption. In the event the mother has voluntarily given up her parental rights without the biological father’s knowledge, it is assumed from a legal perspective that the father falls into one of these categories:
- The father has not responded by timely filing an admission of paternity or a counterclaim of paternity.
- His identity or location is not known.
- His identity is known, but he cannot be located.
- He is presumed dead.
However, if it turns out that the father does not fall into one of these categories, then the father may have grounds to pursue custody of the child. He would first need to establish paternity and demonstrate a commitment to parent the child.
Adoptive Parents’ Perspective on Adoption in Texas
Adoptive parents have the law on their side. If the biological parents have relinquished their parental rights, then it’s rare for a court to reverse that decision. To arrive at this point, there are two ways that parental rights can be terminated in Texas: voluntary termination and involuntary termination.
Voluntary termination occurs when biological parents initiate the suit to give up their parental rights. When the parent signs an affidavit to voluntarily give up their rights – or the alleged father signs an affidavit waiving interest in the child – the court will voluntarily terminate parental rights based upon what’s in the best interest of the child.
Involuntary termination occurs when courts find clear and convincing evidence that terminating the rights of the biological parent(s) is in the best interest of the child. This must be supported by one of the following legal reasons for termination of parental rights:
- The parent(s) has abandoned or did not support the child.
- The parent(s) endangered the child.
- The parent(s) engaged in criminal conduct.
- The parent(s) is not a fit parent.
If a parent was forced to give up their child for adoption, they may attempt to regain custody down the road. But, remember that the court will always do what’s in the best interest of the child.
Work With An Experienced Family Law Attorney on Adoption
Adoption not only affects the child involved but also impacts the biological parents and the adoptive parents. No matter what side of the adoption coin you’re on, I can help you arrive at the best possible position to protect your legal interests.
– If you are a biological parent and believe you have been frauded or gave up your child under duress, I can help.
– If you are an adoptive parent who feels threatened by a biological parent’s attempt to revoke a relinquishment of their parental rights, I can help.
In either situation, you need to talk to an experienced attorney who practices family law. As a child of adoption, I am passionate about working through legal matters involved in adoption cases. I understand the ramifications these types of situations have on a child, and I am eager to help families in my community navigate this stressful and difficult time in their lives.
I currently help families in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County work through adoption laws in Texas. Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to further discuss your situation. I’ll help you better understand whether a biological parent can regain custody after adoption.