Texas Law on Pre-Adoption Contact Agreements: Are They Enforceable?

Understanding Pre-Adoption Contact Agreements in Texas

In the realm of adoption, a pre-adoption contact agreement, often referred to as a post-adoption contact agreement (PACA), is a pact that outlines the communication and visitation agreements between the birth family and the adoptive family. These contracts are designed to maintain connections between a child and their biological relatives after an adoption has been finalized. Such agreements can include stipulations on the frequency of visits, types of communication, and various engagement levels with the birth family.

Legal Enforceability of Pre-Adoption Contact Agreements in Texas

Texas law regards pre-adoption contact agreements with a nuanced perspective. While these agreements can be drawn up and agreed upon by both parties, their legal enforceability has been subject to debate and legal scrutiny. According to the Texas Family Code, these agreements are not legally enforceable unless all parties have agreed to the terms and have entered into the agreement voluntarily. However, even when these criteria are met, Texas courts typically maintain that the best interest of the child is paramount and may override any existing pre-adoption contact agreements if deemed necessary for the child's welfare.

Historically, in cases such as In re C.A.S, the Texas Court of Appeals has addressed issues surrounding the enforceability of PACAs. The court ruled that while such agreements could be recognized, they do not hold the same weight as custody or visitation orders because they do not arise from a parent-child relationship that is recognized by law post-adoption.

Challenges in Enforcing Pre-Adoption Contact Agreements

The challenges in enforcing pre-adoption contact agreements stem from their voluntary nature and the primary consideration of what serves the child's best interests. Courts are hesitant to enforce an agreement if it appears to conflict with those interests or if circumstances have changed since the agreement was made. Furthermore, adoptive parents have full parental rights after adoption, which includes making decisions about who can have contact with their child.

Key Considerations for Drafting Pre-Adoption Contact Agreements in Texas

To increase the likelihood of an agreement being considered by a court, it should be:

It is essential for both birth and adoptive families to fully understand that while they can enter into a PACA in Texas, its enforceability may not be guaranteed. Legal advice is highly recommended when considering such an agreement.