At Stearns‑Montgomery & Proctor, uniting children with adoptive parents is one of the best parts of our job. Our family law attorneys have been making the dream of having a family come true for individuals and couples throughout Georgia since 1988. While you provide the stable, loving home your child needs to thrive, we take care of the legal requirements that must be addressed.
Requirements for Adoption in Georgia
Whether you are considering an adoption involving an infant or an older child, there are numerous tasks which must be accomplished before you officially become a parent. To even begin these proceedings, section 19-8-3 of the Georgia Code requires the following:
- You must be at least 25 years of age or married and living with your spouse;
- You must be at least ten years older than the child;
- You must have been a bona fide resident of the state for the preceding six months;
- You must be physically, emotionally, and financially able to have permanent custody of the child;
- If you are married, your spouse must also be listed on the petition for adoption unless the child is your step-child. Then only you need to file the petition.
Surrender or Termination of Biological Parents’ Rights
Before you can adopt a child, the biological parents’ rights must be either surrendered voluntarily or terminated by a court. The requirements for termination differ depending on whether the adoption is by a government agency, a relative, or a nonrelated third party. Generally, for private parties to adopt, the biological parents must consent in writing to surrender their parental rights. A child over 14 must also give written consent to the adoption. In a step-parent adoption case, the biological parent-spouse will also need to consent to allow their spouse to adopt the child, without terminating the biological parent-spouse’s rights.
In cases where there is abuse, neglect, or parental abandonment, state agencies often become involved and may adopt the child. In these cases, the parent may voluntarily terminate their rights, or the court may terminate them by court order. In this case, a private party may be a candidate to adopt the child from the agency. In cases where there is abuse, neglect, etc., it's best to get the help of a Georgia adoption lawyer.
According to Georgia adoption law, the process begins with filing a petition for adoption. The petition must contain specific information. For example, it must give the child’s age, name, birthdate, sex, and note if the child owns any property, along with attaching several documents such as birth certificates, custody orders regarding the minor child, marriage certificates, and all surrender documents executed by the biological parent(s). It must provide information about the child’s parents and guardians, if any. All attorneys representing a party in the adoption must also file an affidavit listing all payments for services and that the surrender documents were explained to the biological parents by the attorney.
Once your petition is filed, and prior to the hearing for adoption, the court will order a state agency or a private agent to verify the allegations in the petition for adoption. They will investigate the matter thoroughly, including running criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and a home inspection.
Adoption can be an intimidating process, but our adoption lawyers in Georgia are here to protect your rights and guide you each step of the way. For a consultation to discuss how we can help make your dreams a reality, contact Stearns‑Montgomery & Proctor today.