Adoption is possible once the rights of both biological parents are terminated. Adoptions are special occasions for everyone involved, to include the Court. Adoptions give the judge a break from the grind of choosing a winner and a loser. Terminations of parental rights for adoptions are bitter sweet, and typically based on affidavits of relinquishments. Adoptions are done at a separate court proceeding after the termination proceeding.
When a court terminates parental rights that parent has no more rights to the child than a stranger. Involuntary termination cases are typically hard fought. Often these cases arise from allegations of abuse or neglect and involve Child Protective Services. Grounds for termination include abuse or neglect, not paying child support, abandonment as well a number of other grounds. Terminations require clear and convincing evidence that one of grounds for termination is true and clear, and convincing evidence that the termination is in the best interest of the child.
When the grounds for termination is a technical ground – not paying child support, for example — a Court may look for a party, “stepping into the shoes” of the terminated parent. “Stepping into the shoes,” of another parent is not a requirement under the Family Code, however evidence that a party has stepped forward to care for and love the child as a parent makes judges more comfortable granting the termination.
The trial court judge’s level of comfort is important and attitudes about termination, like a lot of matters in family court, vary widely from judge to judge. Terminations are legally disfavored. Typically juries will terminate faster than judges will and for less cause. The disfavored legal treatment of terminations is evidenced by the fact that even if a parent signs an affidavit of relinquishment, the Court must find that the termination is in the best interest of the child.