Hello. Thank you for using Just Answer. I am Texas attorney with over 20 years experience in family law
. I will be glad to answer your question.
I am going to answer your questions out of order to address the most important issue first. That is the question of which state to file this proceeding in. If the Court in Missouri entered the initial orders regarding child support and health care it is what the legal system refers to as the Court of continuing jurisdiction. Once a court in a certain state, in a certain county enters orders regarding a child all future matters pertaining to the child must be heard in that same court. However, there is an exception to this and that is if the child and the custodial parent
have lived in another state and county for a significant amount of time that all there ties, meaning business, doctors, schools, job, new spouse and new family are all in the new state then it is possible to submit a Petition to the court in the old state to transfer the case to the court in the new case.
Since most attorneys are licensed to practice law in only one state you would likely need an attorney in Missouri to file there asking the court to transfer the case here and an attorney in Texas to take over the case once it is transfered.
You next question: "is it easier to file for abandonment or full custody, name change and adoption".
Regarding custody, if you file for "full custody" and I am assuming you mean that the father will have no court ordered access to visit or communicate with your child he will still be the father (even though he is not listed on the birth certificate if he has been ordered to pay child support then there is a finding by a Judge that he is the legal father) and you will likely not be able to change his name. Furthermore, simply filing for "full custody" may not keep the father out of you and your son's life permanently. It would leave and opening for the possibility of him coming back some day to modify the "full custody" and request visitation and access.
As for the adoption option...in Texas for a new spouse to adopt a child the parental rights
of the biological parent
must be terminated. When parental rights are terminated legally that parent becomes as a stranger to the child with no more rights to him than a person you would pass on the street whom you do not know.
In Texas there are a limited number of ways to terminate parental rights. The first, is for the parent to sign a statement saying he waives his parental rights and agrees not to have any contact with the child and that he understands it will be as if that is not his child. This option is not available if you do not know where the father is. So, Texas has options one can use to involuntarily terminate a person's parental rights.
I am going to list the involuntary ground which seem to apply in your case:
1.) Voluntarily left the child alone or in the possession of another without providing adequate support of the child and remained away for a period of at least 6 months. This could be an option if he has failed to pay child support.
2.) Failed to support the child in accordance with the parent's ability during a period of one year ending within 6 months of the date of the filing of the petition. Again, failure to pay child support.
3.) Voluntarily, and with knowledge of the pregnancy, abandoned the mother
of the child beginning at a time during her pregnancy with the child and continuing through the birth, failed to provide adequate support or medical care for the mother during the period of abandonment before the birth of the child, and remained apart from the child
or failed to support the child since the birth.
4.) Has had their parental rights terminated in regard to another child.
5.) Knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child. This could arguably include any danger the child was in as a result of him abusing and making continued threats against you.
6.) Been convicted of certain criminal offenses which caused the death of another person or resulted in particular injury to a child or elderly person.
7.) Is a drug abuser.
The "child abandonment" does not apply as the parent must leave the child with strangers without identifying the child or who the parents are.
The first step in the adoption process is terminate the rights of the absent parent. The parent must be served with notice of the termination suit. You must make a diligent effort to locate him by contacting family or friends that may know where he is so he can be served. If, after you have made your diligent effort, and still cannot locate him, you can execute an affidavit detailing your efforts and your attorney can ask the court that he be served by a substituted method of service. Likely publishing notice of the termination suit in a newspaper.
Once the termination case is completed your husband can proceed to adopt your child. In the adoption process your husband will have to have a background check done and a social worker will have to prepare a home study to inform the Judge that your home and husband are a good fit for the child.
Since you do not know where the father is, the entire termination and adoption process could take six month to a year possibly slightly more, depending on the lawyer and their schedule.
The cost will vary greatly. But I would say the range could be anywhere from $3,000 up to $10,000. Filing fees for the termination and adoption and fees for the social study and psychological exams (if the court orders them) and fees for service, even if by posting would be in addition to the attorney fees.
You should definably begin by speaking with several lawyers in person and having them explain the exact process as it relates to your case. I have provided you with the general principals and a general idea of what the process involves; however, the attorneys you meet with face to face will have the opportunity to speak with you in depth and determine exactly how you should proceed.
If you have any follow up questions, please feel free to ask me. I will answer as soon as I am able. I want you to be satisfied with my answer and your experience with Just Answer.
In the event I have answered your question fully, I would appreciate a rating of a 3, 4, or 5 so that future Just Answer customers can have the benefit of your rating when I answer their questions. Also, if I do not receive a rating of a 3, 4, or 5 I will not be compensated for my answer.
I know this is a trying and uncertain time for you and your family. I hope all works out in the way that is best for all of you.
Thank you again.