Georgia Adoption Laws
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 a stable, loving home your child needs to thrive, we take care of the legal requirements that must be addressed.
Georgia Adoption Process
At Stearns-Montgomery & Proctor, we understand that adoption is a joyous occasion but one that can also be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. It is important that you get legal advice early in the adoption process to prevent any setbacks that could be unpleasant and demoralizing. Our Atlanta adoption attorneys will help guide you through the Georgia adoption process and help to make your journey more streamlined and cost-effective.
We handle a number of unique adoption situations, including:
- Stepparent adoptions
- Grandparent adoptions
- Relative adoptions
- State and private agency adoptions
- Interstate adoption
- Contested adoption
- Termination of parental rights (TPR)
- Involuntary termination of parental rights (TPR)
- Name changes
Our managing partner, Randy Sabatini, is especially well-known in this area and has earned a stellar reputation for adoption law. He not only has successfully guided many families through the process of adoption, but he also has a deep passion for helping his clients' families. You certainly want him and his team fighting on your side.
"One of my most memorable experiences was going to the hospital to visit my clients right after they adopted their child." – Alpharetta Managing Partner, Randy Sabatini
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 Parent's 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.
How to Prepare for an Adoption Case
To adopt a child, it helps to understand some of the legal, practical, and emotional hurdles so that you can prepare for a long, complicated process. The following tips will help you with the practical and emotional aspects.
- Study and know all of your options. For example, have you considered options outside Atlanta and Georgia, such as international adoption?
- Be specific about what you want yet consider your level of flexibility. That includes not only race and gender but also children with physical disabilities, health issues, and mental issues relating to the child's past.
- Develop a strong support system, either with people who meet in-person or online. Adoption can be an emotionally trying and heavy process, so a good support system is essential. Look into support groups that meet in Atlanta or explore online support groups.
- Plan your finances. Costs increase rapidly during the adoption process in Georgia. Budget for the adoption application fee, home study and preparation services, post-placement supervision, mental health evaluations, document preparation, etc.
- Don't worry about the laws. That's where we come in. Laws can vary significantly depending on where you adopt. Seeking guidance from the start can help your entire adoption process go smoother. An experienced Atlanta adoption attorney will have the knowledge and resources to overcome any delays and obstacles.
- Know that as part of the Georgia adoption process, the rights of the biological parent or parents must be terminated. A full and complete termination is essential to ensure that the biological parent does not try to undo the adoption later. If the biological parent does not wish to voluntarily terminate his or her rights, a number of grounds are available that Georgia courts will consider when deciding whether those rights should be terminated involuntarily.
Many of the cases our adoption attorneys handle are by stepparents or relatives who wish to adopt a child already living with them. In these cases, the biological parent is either absent from the child's life or unable to care for the child. In addition to giving the child the security of a permanent parent-child relationship, adoption gives the adoptive parent all the same legal rights as a biological parent.
For additional information about adoption, explore our blog articles:
- 6 Tips To Help Your Adoption Process Go Smoother
- How Does Stepparent Adoption Work in Georgia?
- What you need to Know About International Adoption in Georgia
- What Happens when Parents Divorce after an Adoption?
- Same Sex Adoption in Georgia
Find a Georgia Adoption Attorney
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.