Texas Reproductive LawChristine Henry Andresen represents clients in legal matters related to reproductive law in Texas. Reproductive law is also known as surrogacy law, gestational law, or ART law (assisted reproductive technology law).
Christine is a Fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys, one of only nine AAARTA Fellows in the state of Texas. She has given talks and trainings about ART law for the University of Texas at Austin and for the Travis County Judges and Staff Attorneys.
Areas of REPRODUCTIVE Law
- Assisted Reproductive Technology Law
CHA Law Group represents the whole range of people involved in creative family-building using any method of assisted reproductive technology:
• Intended Parents: Opposite Sex Couples, Same Sex Couples, Single Persons
• Surrogates: Gestational Surrogates, Traditional Surrogates
• Donors: Egg Donors, Sperm Donors
Know of any recent technological advances in assisted reproduction? Please contact CHA Law Group to schedule a consultation to discuss legal options and necessary protections for any issues related to pregnancy and reproduction you don’t find on our website.
- Reciprocal IVF in Texas
I’m getting pregnant with my girlfriend’s egg and a donor’s sperm—what does Texas law have to say about that?
While “Texas” might prefer that that didn’t happen, here at CHA Law Group we celebrate every and any way that creative people figure out how to build a loving family. That said, we also recommend you put some legal paperwork in the mix.
CHA Law Helps Lesbian Couples Compose Legal Agreements for Reciprocal IVF in Texas
Specifically, CHA Law Group recommends that lesbian couples in Texas doing reciprocal IVF draw up a legal agreement that establishes and protects each partner’s rights and responsibilities to the baby-to-be. And then after the birth, these agreements can be further strengthened by obtaining court orders that confirm that both the biological mother and the mother who carries the child both end up as legal parents. In cases where a known donor is used, a legal agreement is especially important in the state of Texas… or anywhere that isn’t used to modern family combinations.
At CHA Law Group, our motto is to hope for the best for our clients’ families, and to throw in some solid legal planning. Contact us to help develop a family plan that honors your family plan.
- Gestational Agreements in Texas
We’re hiring a gestational carrier to carry our baby—do we have any rights before the baby is born?
Yes! A Texas couple that hires a gestational carrier (also known as a gestational surrogate or gestational mother) to carry their child to term has two important rights. The intended parents have the right to enter into a gestational agreement with the gestational carrier, and to have a court validate the agreement and declare that the intended parents will be the legal parents of a child born under the agreement.
Attorney Christine Andresen Drafts Gestational Agreements for Texas Parents-To-Be
In order to protect the intended parents, CHA Law Group will:
• Prepare the agreement
• In cases where someone else has prepared the agreement, Christine will review the document and advise parties of their rights under it (and, if the agreement is not yet in effect, help to negotiate any problematic terms)
• Represent parties in the validation hearing
• Help the intended parents ensure that their names are placed on the birth certificate
• Help with any other legal matters that arise
Have you found a welcome womb? Please make sure that all of your rights are established as soon as possible to avoid complications down the pregnancy road. Contact CHA Law to get a gestational agreement started.
- Sperm Donation Agreements in Texas
Is a sperm donor automatically considered the father in Texas?
It depends. Is the donor anonymous or known?
Texas statutes are crystal clear that a child conceived through anonymous donor sperm obtained from a licensed physician has no legal father. The situation is less clear when a known sperm donor is used.
Known Sperm Donor Agreements Establish Parental Rights in Texas
A known donor in Texas could be either be legally considered a mere donor or, if the parties are not careful, could be a legal parent. The case law is clear that courts are strongly guided by the agreement made between the known sperm donor and the mother around the time of donation. This means that the best protection for intended mothers who wish to use a sperm donor is to use a Known Sperm Donor Agreement (or contract) that conforms closely to the laws of Texas regarding sperm donors, gestational agreements, etc. Additional protection can be gained by using a doctor as middle-man, having the donor execute a Waiver of Interest in Child, and depending on the circumstances, a court order obtained after the birth of the child.
Are you heading down the path of insemination with a known donor in Texas? Please contact us to discuss what kind of agreements you should establish with the donor before you get out the turkey baster.
- Egg Donation Agreements in Texas
Egg donation agreements are important for both the recipients and the donors in the state of Texas.
I’m going to use an egg donor to get pregnant—do I need a legal agreement?
A couple or single person contemplating using an ovum donor, also known as an egg donor, is wise to have an attorney prepare an egg donation agreement. CHA Law Group will:
• Prepare the agreement
• If someone else has prepared the agreement, we will review this document and advise parties of their rights under it (and, if the agreement is not yet in effect, help to negotiate any problematic terms)
• Help with any other legal matters that arise
I’m donating one of my eggs to a couple trying to get pregnant—do I need to talk to a lawyer?
Donors should make sure such a contract is worded a certain way so as to not have negative tax implications on compensation received.
CHA Law Group has experience making sure both egg donors and recipients are fully protected. If you’re involved in egg donation from either side, consult with us to make sure your best interests are covered.
- Embryo Donation Agreements in Texas
Our fertility doctor said that embryo donation might be a good solution for us—what are the legal guidelines we need to follow in Texas?
It depends on which type of embryo donation situation you are in.
With an anonymous embryo donation, an embryo is obtained by a fertility clinic or doctor’s office and donated to a couple anonymously. Because the embryos were donated anonymously by a couple with no past or future relationship with the intended parents, there is almost definitely no need for a legal agreement. (Note: you may want to ask the medical facility to ask donors to complete family/medical history, though. This can be easier to get for recently donated embryos, and more difficult later in time as contact info becomes outdated.)
Make Sure You are Specified as the Legal Parent with a Known Embryo Donation Agreement
When a couple known to the intended parents is donating their embryo, this is called a known embryo donation and there are more potential legal implications. If this is your situation, it’s best to hire an attorney with ART experience to set out the terms of the arrangement, confirming who the intended parents are, that the embryo donors are donors and not legal parents, among other considerations.
Couples going through fertility treatments may be so sick of their frequent visits to the doctors’ office that the last thing they want to do is go for another appointment. As a lawyer with a lot of reproductive law experience, however, Christine Andresen highly recommends you come in for a consultation to make sure your family is fully protected.
- Reciprocal IVF in Texas
- Adoption in Texas
Legal adoption is the best way to secure parental rights and protect family bonds when non-biological parents are taking care of, or want to parent a child they are caring for. CHA Law Group represents Central Texas families interested in building or confirming the legal status of their families through legal adoption in a wide range of circumstances.
In some cases, like grandparent adoption, the child is a relative. In others, one parent has already adopted—perhaps through a CPS adoption—and a second-parent adoption is needed. In yet others, a step-parent wants to adopt. Or an interstate adoption (also known as an ICPC adoption), or even international adoption, is desired. CHA Law Group has represented families in Central Texas in all of these arrangements. (Check out LGBT Law for more about second-parent adoptions by a same-sex spouse or partner.)
Family Lawyer Christine Andresen Knows the Ins and Outs of Legal Adoption in the State of Texas
Sometimes, the biological parents are in agreement with the adoption and the process consists of no more than some paperwork and an uncontested hearing that will feel easy if you have the right attorney. Other times, one or more of the biological parents are not in agreement and there needs to be a contested adoption hearing, like a trial.
If Legal Adoption isn’t an Option, There are Other Ways to Protect the Children in Your Life
In some families’ situations, a full adoption isn’t necessary or something the family wants. Joint managing conservatorship (shared custody) or even power of attorney to make medical and educational decisions are alternatives to adoption that CHA Law Group can discuss with you.
Each adoption situation requires an experienced adoption lawyer to navigate Texas law and make sure your family is built with a solid legal foundation. Contact CHA Law to talk about whether adoption is the best option for your family and how Texas adoption law applies to you.
- International Adoption
We’re adopting a child from another country—how do we make it legal in Texas?
Congratulations! Christine has extensive experience welcoming international adoptees and getting them all set up with the right legal paperwork and protection.
International IR-3 Adoptions in Texas
An IR-3 adoption is when the adoption was first finalized in a foreign country and the child will arrive in Texas with an IR-3 visa. Upon arrival, CHA Law Group can pursue:
• A re-adoption in Texas
• A change of the child's name, if needed
• A court order needed to obtain a Texas birth certificate
International IR-4 Adoptions in Texas
Alternatively, if there is an IR-4 visa, a visa given to children that gives them permission to come to the U.S. to be legally adopted, Christine can start the adoption process once the child arrives. This includes:
• A full legal adoption in Texas
• A change of the child's name, if needed
• A court order needed to get a Texas birth certificate
Please let CHA Law Group welcome your new addition to Texas with open arms. Schedule a consultation with Austin-based adoption attorney Christine Andresen as early in the international adoption process as you can to ensure that the legal process goes smoothly. And promise to send her a photo when you meet your little one for the first time.
- Grandparent Adoption / Relative Adoption in Texas
Our daughter can’t parent our grandchildren—can grandparents adopt their grandchildren?
It takes a village. Families are complex and sometimes aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents have to take over the parenting duties for a child. CHA Law Group has extensive experience helping blood relatives adopt children from within the family in several counties in Central Texas. This experience has shown us that relative adoptions can often be complicated, but with the right adoption attorney, hopefully will seem easy to you.
Let Austin-based CHA Law Group Ensure the Best Interests of the Child Are Protected in Grandparent Adoption
In grandparent, or other relative adoptions, there are often obstacles that knowledgable legal assistance can help you overcome. The biological parent may have initially wanted the child with relatives, but may or may not be OK with having their parental rights terminated so that the relative can become a legal parent. Occasionally, there is a conservatorship dispute or CPS involvement, and you will need legal representation to prove that it’s in the best interest of the child for the child to end up with you.
If your family is trying to decide on the best course of action to protect your grandchild, niece, nephew, or cousin in Central Texas, come talk to Christine Andresen about the best way to pursue a relative adoption. Let’s look out for this child together, and make sure your relationship has legal protection.
- Step-parent Adoption in Texas
My second husband is the only father my children have ever known, even though he’s not their biological father—can a step-father adopt his step-children?
We at CHA Law Group love to hear a good story about a step-father stepping up. Divorce and remarriage often mean a shift in parenting roles, custody, and parent-child relationships. In some cases this means that a biological parent fades from the children’s lives (or completely disappears or was never there in the first place), and a step-parent is the day-in, day-out co-parent.
Step-parent Adoption Gives Legal Recognition and Rights to Step-fathers and Step-mothers That Are Doing the Day-To-Day Parenting
Step-mother or step-father adoption often helps match the legal situation with the reality of who is doing the actual parenting. This gives legal protection to the relationship between the child or children with their step-parent, even though it’s not a biological relationship. In these cases, the absent biological parent’s rights are terminated and the step-parent adopts. In the case above, for instance, this would mean the step-father becomes the legal father through a termination/adoption hearing, meaning there would be almost no chance of a custody battle were the mother to pass away.
CHA Law Group Helps Families Protect their Relationships through Step-parent Adoption in Central Texas
The legal process of a step-mother or step-father adoption can be quite easy or quite difficult, depending on a few key factors:
• If the absent parent will sign a relinquishment (and sometimes he or she will, because future child support will end if the court grants the termination)
• If the absent parent has been paying any child support
• How hard the absent parent is to find
• If the absent parent decides to argue his or her termination or not
In any of these cases, an experienced adoption lawyer like Christine Andresen is essential in fighting for your rights as a family and obtaining legal recognition of the real parenting situation. Contact CHA to schedule a consultation to discuss how step-parent adoption would work for your family.
- Texas and Interstate Agency Adoption
My wife and I are using an agency to do a private adoption—will we also need to hire a lawyer?
Many families that want to adopt in Texas decide to work with an adoption agency to do a “private adoption,” or “agency adoption,” where the agency helps the prospective adoptive parents find a match with a mother or couple looking to place their child. An agency adoption, like most adoptions, requires a lawyer to represent the adoptive parents and make sure all of the official paperwork is completed and their status as legal parents is recognized by the State of Texas.
Don't Be Pressured to Work With an Agency Adoption Attorney—It’s Your Choice Who Should Represent You
Adoption agencies will often recommend their own attorney (and sometimes push you quite hard to use their person!), but CHA Law Group has experience successfully working with a variety of different types of agency adoptions. And note that agencies will usually let you work with an attorney of your own choice if you insist. Austin-based family law attorney Christine Andresen can help your family make sure that all of the big picture legal implications are thought through and managed correctly.
Austin Lawyer Christine Andresen Can Help with Agency Adoptions Outside of the Austin, Texas Area
CHA Law Group can also assist when the adoption agency and/or adoption attorney are located outside of the Austin area when there is a complicated issue to manage for a Central Texas birth mother or adoptive parents.
CHA Law Group Represents Texas Mothers Who Place Their Babies Through Adoption Agencies
We also have experience representing the relinquishing mother with the Texas portion of a Texas or interstate adoption in agency adoptions. We will make sure a biological mother’s rights are protected, that she knows exactly what the process entails, and understands what she is signing—all of which is the best practice for adoptive parents to insist upon because having a birth mother represented by counsel ultimately helps to protect the adoptive parents.
If you are planning on an agency adoption to adopt or place your child, contact CHA Law Group to start your legal planning.
- Independent Adoption in Texas
My partner and I are adopting the child of an acquaintance in trouble, without using an agency—can a lawyer help with this type of independent adoption?
Adoptions where no agency is used are sometimes called “independent adoptions.” This is a situation where someone takes in the child of a relative, a friend, or an acquaintance. The legal process can be relatively straightforward, or quite complicated. An experienced and knowledgeable adoption lawyer can help.
Family Law Attorney Christine Andresen Helps Navigate the Adoption Process for Independent Adoptions
Sometimes, the biological parents are in full agreement and cooperation with the adoption. Other times, the biological parent has mixed feelings or changes his or her mind. For instance, the biological parent has dropped the child off with the prospective adoptive parents—who have been caring for the child for a great deal of time and are ready to become legal parents—but when the legal case commences, the parents will not cooperate. In some cases, the biological mother is in full agreement with adoption, but there are issues regarding the biological father. In any of these cases, an experienced family lawyer will make sure the best case is put forward to complete the adoption.
CHA Law Group has experience with a variety of different types of these independent adoptions. Please contact us to schedule an appointment to come up with a legal plan to move forward with your adoption.
- Interstate Adoption (ICPC Adoption) in Texas
We live in Austin but we are adopting a child from out of Texas—where and how do we take care of all of the necessary legal issues?
While certain types of interstate adoptions may be relatively straightforward, as when the biological parent independently brings the child to the adoptive family in the new state, preferably long before adoption is contemplated, in many types of interstate adoptions, the “Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children” applies.
CHA Law Group Helps Families Pursuing Interstate Adoptions Satisfy All of the Legal Requirements
Interstate adoptions, sometimes called ICPC adoptions, can require approval from the ICPC office of the child protective agency of the sending and receiving state. Dealing with this office—called the TICO in Texas, the Texas Interstate Compact Office—can involve completion of a Texas DFPS Form ICPC-100A; equivalent paperwork will be needed in another state.
As an Austin-based family law attorney with experience in ICPC cases, Christine can help your family make sure all of the interstate adoption rules are followed and your family can start with a secure foundation. Call us to make an appointment to come and talk about the special requirements.
- Contested Adoption in Texas
We have been taking care of a child for most of his little life and we want to adopt him to protect the family we have made with him, but his mother says she will fight us in court if we try to adopt him—does the state of Texas ever let non-biological caretakers adopt a child?
People that find themselves taking care of other people’s children for an extended period of time often have much more of a parenting role and relationship with the children than the biological parents. In many cases it makes sense for them to adopt the children to provide stability and legal protection for the family. When one or both of the biological parents don’t want to relinquish their legal rights—even if the child has been with the prospective adoptive parents and they have been parenting the child without support from the biological parents for a great deal of time—this becomes a contested adoption. That said, occasionally the parents do not cooperate in a technically contested adoption, in which case a default can be obtained. But sometimes the parent files a proper legal answer (or a letter that the court construes as an answer), and shows up in trial ready to do battle, and to fight his or her own termination and the prospective adoptive parent’s adoption.
CHA Law Practice Represents Caretakers in Contested Adoptions
Contested adoptions require a sort of legal double whammy: termination of the biological parents’ parental rights (normally the part the parent is fighting) and legal adoption for the prospective adoptive parents. It’s essential to hire an experienced family law attorney like Christine Andresen to make sure the child and prospective adoptive parents’ best interests are well-represented and protected.
CHA Law Group has experience in obtaining a termination of parental rights even in the case where a parent shows up in court, trying to fight their termination and retain rights. If you’re in this situation, please call us to discuss what your legal options are.
- CPS Adoption and Foster Care Adoption in Texas
My partner and I want to adopt our foster child that was removed from her family by CPS—do we need to hire a family lawyer to help us through the process?
Yes. Just like with any adoption, the adoptive parents need to be represented by a lawyer to complete the process. And can we add that we’re suckers for a good foster-to-adopt story?
CHA Law Group Helps Foster Families Navigate the Adoption Process in Austin, Texas
Foster parents in a CPS case can use an attorney their agency recommends, or find their own. An experienced adoption attorney can help you avoid all of the pitfalls and overcome the obstacles of dealing with a bureaucratic agency and ensuring your family is legally secure.
CHA Law Group in Austin has experience in intervening in CPS cases, and also in representing the adoptive parents in the adoption after parental rights have been terminated. If you’d like the perspective of an Austin-based family law attorney with a lot of experience with CPS cases, please give us a call to schedule a consultation.
- Second-Parent Adoption / LGBT Adoption in Texas
I'm a lesbian and I want to adopt my girlfriend’s baby that we will raise together—will Texas let me do this?
Suprisingly, yes, if you work with an attorney who can help you find an LGBT-friendly judge. Travis County judges (and judges elsewhere in the State of Texas, for that matter) will grant second-parent adoptions to the non-biological parent in a same-sex couple who is partnered with a parent of a child. Second-parent adoption is available to same-sex LGBT couples that live anywhere in Texas, if you hire an experienced adoption attorney who knows how to get you in front of the right judge.
CHA Law Works With Many LGBT Couples to Obtain Second-Parent Adoptions
Sometimes both partners adopt—the first adopts a child (from CPS or an agency or through an independent adoption) and the second then does a second-parent adoption. Of course, trouble can arise when there are interstate issues, someone is contesting the adoption, or other complications. That’s when you’ll really be glad you have a good lawyer.
Austin-Based family law attorney Christine Henry Andresen is an invited member of the national LGBT Family Law Institute, and has a great deal of experience with same-sex adoption in a variety of circumstances. This is especially important for same-sex couples in Texas, even if they are married, because marriage is different than parentage, and judges in conservative Texas counties are likely to be skeptical of parentage theories when there is no adoption order. For maximum protection if the biological mother were to die, or in a break-up, that adoption can make all the difference. Even opposite-sex step-parents in Texas need to adopt for parentage to be automatic. And married same-sex couples in places like Massachusetts and California often still adopt because of the possibility they could move to (or even visit) somewhere like Round Rock and disaster strikes.
Where you live isn’t the only issue—it also matters what the family situation is like. Perhaps one of you already adopted through CPS as a single parent. Perhaps one of you is the biological parent and the other biological parent is willing to relinquish parental rights. Perhaps a sperm donor was used and there are donor contract issues to resolve before the pregnancy even begins, let alone the second-parent adoption is completed. Each of these situations brings its own legal issues and potential complications. Circumstances vary. Inquire within.
Contact us to set up an appointment to get your family legal!
- International Adoption