What Are the Biological Parents' Rights in Adoption?
Sept. 4, 2023
The decision to place a child for adoption is a life-changing event in a biological parent’s life. As the birth parent, you should fully understand what placing your child for adoption means and how it can affect your parental rights long-term.
Attorney James P. Peterson helps both adoptive and birth parents achieve their adoption goals and works with the goal that both parties involved in the process are satisfied with the agreed-upon arrangement. Attorney Peterson is a skilled adoption attorney in San Antonio, Texas, who advocates for the rights of his clients and provides objective and helpful information to parents considering adoption in surrounding communities, including Boerne and New Braunfels.
Adoption Laws and Regulations
Placing a child for adoption is an emotional and complicated decision to make, especially when biological parents do not fully understand their rights and obligations under the law. When considering giving a child up for adoption, every biological parent should understand Texas laws and regulations surrounding the termination of parental rights and consent requirements.
Under Texas law, a child cannot be put up for adoption unless their biological parents’ parental rights have been terminated. In Texas, a biological mother must wait no less than 48 hours after childbirth to give her written consent to the termination.
To be valid, the written consent (called an Affidavit of relinquishment of parental rights),must be signed by two witnesses, and then it must be verified. The verification should be done by a person authorized to take oaths. The consent requirement for biological fathers is different. A birth father does not have to wait until the baby is born. Instead, he can give his consent to adoption at any point before childbirth. Of course two witnesses and a notary public must verify his signature. Under Texas law, the child’s consent is not required unless the child is at least 12 years of age.
A Biological Parent’s Rights Before and After Adoption
While biological fathers can surrender their parental rights at any point before the child is born, biological mothers are required under Texas law to maintain their parental rights for a minimum of 48 hours after giving birth. During these 48 hours, birth mothers have full parental rights.
However, after 48 hours pass, they can give up their rights by signing a written voluntary release of parental rights, which will relinquish their rights. This release also serves as a power of attorney for the adoptive parents to exercise the rights of a parent until the court gives them specific rights and duties. After the biological parents’ rights are terminated, the adoptive family can seek conservatorship rights from the court, provided the necessary home studies and background checks have been filed with the court. In almost all cases, once your parental rights are terminated, you cannot get your child back.
Under Texas law, parental rights cannot be terminated through fraud, duress, or coercion. The law requires that parental rights be terminated freely. However, Texas law also recognizes what is known as “involuntary” termination when the court terminates someone’s parental rights when there are compelling reasons to do so, such as:
The child was endangered;
The child was abandoned, and the parent does not express an intent to return the child;
The parent abused or neglected their child or another child;
The parent is imprisoned for at least two years;
The parent is otherwise unfit.
While a biological mother’s parental rights may be terminated once 48 hours pass after giving birth, the mother may continue to maintain contact with the child. This is known as an open adoption. Typically, the adoptive family and the birth mother will discuss the level of involvement, the frequency of contact, the type of communication, and other details regarding the open adoption. However, in Texas the birth parent can receive no written assurance that an open adoption will in fact occur because that agreement is not allowed by Texas law. Whether or not the birth parent has contact with the child after the termination or adoption is entirely within the sole discretion of the adoptive parents; and the birth parent, once his or her rights are terminated, cannot assert any right to see the child. For this reason adoptive parents should not promise an open adoption because it could be seen as a fraudulent inducement for the birth parent to sign away their rights.
Alternatively, the biological mother may opt for a closed adoption, which means she will have no contact with her child after her parental rights are terminated and the adoption is complete.
Often, an adoption attorney’s assistance may be necessary to facilitate communication between the biological parents and the adoptive family regarding the details of the open vs. closed adoption arrangement.
Understand Your Rights
Adoption is a lifelong commitment for both biological and adoptive parents. Once a biological parent gives their consent and signs the paperwork, there’s no going back. That is why you want to make sure that you—as a biological parent—fully understand your rights. James P Peterson Attorney at Law can guide you through every step of the adoption process to ensure that everyone is satisfied with the outcome. Reach out now to schedule a free strategy session