Adopting a grandchild can be a gratifying experience that can provide a child with much-needed stability and love. However, it can also be a complicated process that requires careful consideration of many legal issues. This situation raises an important question: “Can I adopt my grandchild without a lawyer?”
Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple “yes” or “no.” While Texas law allows you to pursue a grandchild adoption without a lawyer, you will need expert help to succeed in adopting your grandchild. It’s a very complex process that requires legal support from a family law attorney. Let me explain further how grandparents’ rights work in our state.
The Basics of Grandchild Adoption in Texas
Adoption cases in Texas often hinge on the concept of parental rights. These rights give a parent the legal authority to make decisions for their child, such as those involving the child’s medical care, education, and living situation.
Adopting your grandchild gives you the permanent legal authority to make those decisions for them. But to do so, the child’s parents must be deceased or have their parental rights legally terminated.
Once the matter of parental rights is out of the way, the court makes decisions based on the child’s best interests. The court will weigh all relevant factors that may affect a child’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being.
Arguing that adoption is in the best interest of the child – and that you are the best person to provide a safe and stable home – is one of the most important aspects of a successful adoption. Accomplishing this without the help of an experienced adoption attorney can prove to be a daunting task.
Overview of the Grandchild Adoption Process in Texas
No two grandchild adoptions are identical. The way yours proceeds will largely depend on the status of the child’s biological/legal parents and whether they’re willing to surrender their parental rights.
No matter which category your situation falls into, the process will require you to gather and submit a number of documents to the court and appear before a judge at least once.
If Both Parents Are Deceased
If both biological parents are deceased, that means there are no existing parental rights in place, and you can go ahead and start the adoption process. You’ll need to file a petition with the court and serve notice of the action to any other interested parties.
After receiving your petition, the court will decide if the adoption is in the child’s best interests and that all legal requirements are met. The Texas family court system believes that, in most cases, keeping a child with their family is in their best interests.
As the child’s grandparent, the court may award you temporary guardianship until a final adoption decision is made, and it will most likely favor your petition for adoption.
However, other family members may want to adopt the child. An attorney can help you discuss all possible scenarios and help you prepare for your hearing. At the hearing, the court will consider testimony from all parties and make a final decision.
If One or Both Parents Are Alive
If one or both parents are still alive, the termination of parental rights must be achieved – either voluntarily or involuntarily – to pursue adoption and gain custody of your grandchild.
Parental consent to the adoption simplifies the process considerably. If both parents are willing to terminate their parental rights, they must sign them away using the appropriate forms. Once the parental rights are terminated, you can file a petition to adopt the child and proceed with the final adoption hearing, where a judge will determine if you should be granted custody.
A contested grandchild adoption, where the biological parents are unwilling to terminate their parental rights, is where things get complicated.
Parents are often unwilling to give up their rights to their children, even if their actions suggest they’re unfit to raise them. In this case, you’ll need to proceed with a court-initiated involuntary termination of parental rights, which may or may not be granted. It will be tough to obtain a favorable result without the aid of an attorney.
Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights
When determining whether to terminate a parent’s rights against their will, the court evaluates their fitness to raise the child and the stability of their home environment. You must prove why adopting your grandchild is in their best interests and why you’d be the better choice to care for the child.
What may qualify for involuntary termination? Typically, it’s extreme cases of the following:
- Mental illness
Other factors, such as the quality of a parent’s parenting skills or their failure to bond with the child, are typically insufficient. Therefore, grandparents who wish to adopt their grandchild have the burden of proving that the child would suffer serious harm if they remain with their parents.
Evidence for this argument must be compelling and usually requires a thorough investigation. It may involve collecting witness statements, obtaining medical records, and conducting home visits. If you have any evidence suggesting that the parent is unfit – such as photos, videos, or text messages – you’ll also need to present that in court.
Several court hearings may be needed before a decision is made. With the help of a seasoned attorney, it can be more manageable to navigate these proceedings and present the most favorable case.
Can I Adopt My Grandchild Without a Lawyer? Seek Legal Support Instead for Your Adoption Case
It is often difficult for grandparents to adopt their grandchildren in Texas, even in the most straightforward cases. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help simplify the process and ensure that you are adequately prepared for court proceedings.
A positive outcome is never guaranteed, but with the proper legal support, you can significantly improve your chances of successfully adopting your grandchild.
While you may want to adopt your grandchild without a lawyer, I highly recommend working with a seasoned legal expert who can provide you with the care and attention your case deserves.
I currently help clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. If you live in one of these counties, contact me to discuss your situation.
When you’re ready to begin taking steps toward giving your grandchild a safe and loving home, I invite you to reach out to my family law office for a consultation. Together, we can explore your legal options and create the best plan of action for your case.
Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to get started on your grandchild adoption case.