If you are considering foster care adoption in Georgia, you probably have a lot of questions. Here are some of the most important issues and aspects you will want to consider. Are You Already Fostering the Child? If you are already a foster parent to the child you want to…
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.
Our partner, Judy Sartain, is especially well-known in this area and has earned a stellar reputation for adoption law. She not only has successfully guided many families through the process of adoption, but he also has a deep passion for helping her clients' families. You certainly want Judy and her team fighting on your side. You will find Judy in all of the Atlanta Metro counties, however her home base is Gainesville.
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
Hear From Our Clients
Without a doubt the best lawyer for the job. Professional, Experienced, knowledgable, fierce, quick, full of wit, and a joy to work with.
Highly recommend as an adoption attorney!! Judy and her staff is the best in the business. She is a true "Pit Bull" in the courtroom!
What an awesome experience it was in allowing them to help us with our adoption of our son!!! Very professional and personable touch in dealing with our case. Everyone was very friendly and cordial. I would recommend this Law Firm to anyone seeking professional help and counsel! Judy is very professional and knowledgeable of adoption situations and laws.
Requirements for Adoption in Georgia
You must be at least 10 years older than the child you are adopting.
You must be physically and emotionally able to have permanent custody of the child.
You must be 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 stepchild.
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 above.
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
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.
Termination of Rights
Know that as part of the Georgia adoption process, the rights of the biological parent or parents must be terminated. 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.
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 above tips will help you with the practical and emotional aspects.
Learn More with our Adoption Blog Posts
If you are considering adoption and wondering what happens once the placement process is complete, Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services offers some post-adoption support services designed to help adoptive parents settle into their new life while enhancing the adoption experience. Here are some of the programs available to…
The adoption process is not inexpensive. Some families who want to adopt are left struggling to find the resources to meet the high costs. Before you decide there is no way you can afford it and, therefore, give up your dream of starting a family, speak to an experienced Georgia…