For couples who are childless or love children, few things can be more wonderful than adopting a child. But, because more than one person is involved in a child’s birth (and life), things do not always go smoothly. Sometimes, one of the child’s biological parents opposes the adoption. If not resolved amicably, it can lead to a lawsuit and make the entire process a bitter experience for everyone involved.

What is a contested adoption?

In Texas, a contested adoption can occur in several situations. The most typical is when one biological parent consents to the adoption of their newborn child while the other biological parent takes steps to block the adoption. Often, it is the child’s mother that wishes to place the baby for adoption and the father seeks to block the proceedings. Occasionally, the roles are reversed.

Other adoptions that are commonly contested include adoptions initiated by the child protective services department of the state. Parental rights have been terminated due to abuse or neglect. Relatives or foster parents may seek to adopt the child and biological grandparents or other relatives of the biological parents may contest the adoption.

There are several reasons a biological parent may not be happy with the adoption of his or her child. The father may not have been aware of the pregnancy of the biological mother because it was kept from him or because someone else was misidentified as the biological father. The contesting parent may have been left out of the decision-making process. He or she may have been coerced into consenting for the adoption, or he or she may have had a change of heart. Additionally, there may have been a failure to properly locate and serve the parent to give notice of the impending termination of his or her rights.

What Happens When an Adoption Is Contested?

For this discussion, we will take the case of a biological father who objects to an adoption. When a biological father contests an adoption in Texas, the first step for the parties involved is to try to resolve the dispute amicably through negotiations. If that fails, the contesting father can take the matter to court, challenging the termination of his parental rights, or the process by which his parental rights may already have been terminated, which automatically halts the adoption process and triggers a hearing to contest the termination of his rights and the adoption.

At the hearing, the judge assesses a wide variety of matters including whether the biological father knew of the pregnancy of the mother and demonstrated appropriate demeanor during the pregnancy of the biological mother and whether he has participated in the care or support of the child and otherwise followed all the measures required by Texas law. If the court’s decision is in favor of the biological father, then the termination of his rights will not occur or will be reversed and the adoption cannot proceed. If the judge rules in favor of the adoptive parents, the biological father’s petition is denied, his rights are terminated and the adoptive parents are granted their request for adoption and custody of the child.

Sometimes, the court is not able to render a decision regarding relatives and interested parties if both parents rights have been terminated. Sometimes the rights of one or both parents remain intact and not terminated, but the question of who has custody of the child is in dispute. In such a case, the judge will schedule a best-interest hearing. The purpose of a best-interest hearing is to determine which party can provide a better and more stable life for the child. The party that is deemed to be more capable of providing a stable life to the child is given custody.

If you are involved in a contested adoption in Texas, speak to Dallas adoption attorney Mary Ann Beaty. She has successfully represented many parents in contested adoption cases. She will review your case, explain Texas adoption laws, and help you determine an appropriate course of action.