Georgia adoptions can be full of long processes and requirements, yet when adopting your stepchild, the process is not always that extensive. Many stepparents fall in love with their stepchildren and wish to adopt them as their own. So how do you adopt your stepchild in Georgia?
To adopt a stepchild in Georgia, the stepparent wishing to adopt must obtain stepchild adoption court forms, often available at the local courthouse, or may be purchased online from a court form service. If the biological parent is contest the adoption, then hiring a lawyer is strongly encouraged.
There are a number of reasons why a stepparent might want to adopt their stepchild in Georgia, including:
- Creating a legal connection: Adoption establishes a legal connection between the stepparent and the child, endowing the stepparent with all of the same obligations and rights as a biological parent.
- Adoption also guarantees the child’s inheritance rights, ensuring that they will be taken care of in the case that the child’s stepparent passes away.
- Creating a sense of family: Adoption can also strengthen the link between the stepparent and the kid by fostering a sense of family and belonging for both parties.
- Adoption can give a child security and stability, especially if their biological parent is absent or not actively participating in their upbringing.
- Decision-making is made easier thanks to adoption, which gives the stepparent the right to make choices about the child’s welfare, education, and medical treatment.
- Changing the stepchild’s name: If both the stepparent and the stepchild so choose, adoption may also give the stepchild a new name.
How to Adopt Your Stepchild in Georgia
To adopt your stepchild in Georgia you can either hire a lawyer, visit your local courthouse and ask if they provide stepchild adoption court form packets, or you can purchase court forms through a service that specializes in stepchild adoption court forms.
Hire an Adoption Lawyer
In Georgia, a stepparent does not have to retain legal counsel in order to adopt their stepchild. However, it is crucial to think about working with a lawyer to complete the adoption process as they may offer helpful advice and counsel throughout the process.
A lawyer comes in handy for the following:
- Defining the legal process: An attorney can describe the paperwork and court procedures involved in adopting a stepchild in detail.
- Document review: A lawyer can check any adoption-related paperwork to make sure it is done accurately and submitted on time.
- Legal representation: A lawyer can represent the stepparent in court, ensuring that their rights are upheld and that they adhere to all rules and regulations.
- Assistance getting biological parents’ consent: A lawyer can assist in securing the biological parent’s consent, which is a critical step in the adoption procedure.
- Helping with any difficulties: If there are any difficulties with the adoption process, such as objections from the biological parents or other legal obstacles, an attorney can help.
In Georgia, it is beneficial for a stepparent considering adoption to hire an attorney in order to make sure the adoption process runs smoothly and that both the child’s rights and their own are protected, although there is no legal obligation to do so.
Click here for a board-certified adoption lawyer in Georgia.
Visit Your Local Courthouse
In the state of Georgia, stepparents who are looking to adopt their stepchildren may obtain the required court forms and instructions at their local courthouse. These packets usually contain all the necessary documents and guidance to go through with the adoption process.
A stepparent who wishes to obtain court form packets should go to their local courthouse. They will likely be able to access the necessary forms from either the Clerk of Court’s office or the Family Law division.
When going through the adoption process, the stepparent should take note that counties and courts may have different requirements.
To ensure the correct forms and instructions are followed, it’s best to consult with the local courthouse for more details.
The stepparent should also consult the court’s website, speak to the court directly, and be aware of the county’s specific operating hours and filing fees, in addition to any other requirements for the process.
It is not required to hire a lawyer, but it is highly suggested as they can help with the process by going over the forms, sending them in a timely manner, and standing up for the stepparent in court.
Purchase Stepchild Adoption Court Forms Through a Service
In Georgia, stepparents looking to adopt their stepchild may purchase stepparent adoption court forms from an online service such as Stepchildadoptionforms.com. These services usually provide documents, instructions, and forms relevant to the stepchild adoption process in the state.
It’s essential to be aware of the fact that these services do not and will not provide legal counsel. The stepparent must understand the forms and follow all instructions vigilantly.
It is best to check with their local courthouse to make sure that the forms are accurate and up-to-date.
Some services may provide additional support, like customer assistance over the phone, email support, or a live chat option.
This is especially useful for stepparents who are looking for further information and advice on the legal forms or adoption process.
Visit here for more information on the requirements to adopt in Georgia.
Curious about how much it would cost to adopt your stepchild? We put together an article just for you.
The adoption process for stepparents wishing to adopt their stepchild in Georgia typically involves several steps, including filing a petition for adoption, undergoing a home study and background check, obtaining the consent of the biological parent, and finalizing the adoption in court.
Filing of the Petition for Adoption
Filing of the Petition for Adoption is an important step in the process of stepparents adopting their stepchildren in Georgia. This is the legal document that initiates the adoption process and must be filed with the appropriate court. The petition typically includes the following information:
- The name, address, and job title of the stepparent are included in their personal information.
- The name, birthdate, and current address of the stepchild are among their personal details.
- Information on the child’s relationship with the child’s biological parent and stepparent.
- The rationale behind the adoption, including any pertinent events that influenced the choice to adopt.
- Any further details that the particular court or county may request.
Home Study and Background Check
In Georgia, home study and background checks are important requirements for stepparents who want to adopt their stepchildren. These evaluations assess the safety of the home environment and the fitness of the stepparent as a parent.
A home study is a review of the stepparent’s domestic setting, executed by a social worker. The social worker will come to the stepparent’s home and have conversations with the stepparent and the child.
The social worker will also acquire particulars about the stepparent’s life, including their financial standing, work history, and any legal or child welfare past.
The home study will likewise incorporate an evaluation of the stepparent’s parenting abilities and the child’s bond with the stepparent.
To ensure the safety of the stepchild, an extensive background check is performed on all adults living in the home which includes a criminal record check, child welfare checks, and fingerprinting.
This is to ensure that no adult has a history of child abuse, domestic violence, or other criminal activity which would make them unfit to be around children.
The court will review the home study and background check, and provide the court with a report outlining any findings or recommendations.
If the report is favorable, then the adoption process may proceed. However, if it is unfavorable, then the adoption might be denied.
It is important to keep in mind that the home study and background check process can take several weeks to complete, and it is best for a stepparent to plan accordingly.
Furthermore, the cost of these evaluations varies depending on the county and the agency doing the evaluation.
Consent of the Biological Parent
Georgia stepparents who wish to adopt their stepchildren must obtain consent from the biological parent before an adoption can be completed; this is an essential step in the adoption process.
A notarized parental consent form must be signed by the biological parent in order to formally relinquish parental rights and consent to an adoption. This legal document must then be filed with the court.
In some cases, the biological parent will willingly give consent for adoption, but in cases where they are unwilling or unable, a court process can be used to terminate their parental rights, allowing the adoption to proceed.
If the rights of the biological parent have been terminated by the court or if the biological parent is ruled to be unfit, they do not need to provide consent for adoption.
Termination of the Biological Parent’s Rights
In Georgia, when a stepparent wishes to adopt their stepchild and the biological parent is unable or unwilling to give their consent, they must legally terminate the biological parent’s rights in order to finalize the adoption.
This process ends the legal link between the biological parent and the child.
Filing a petition with the court is usually the first step in terminating biological parental rights.
This will bring about a hearing where both the stepparent and the biological parent can present evidence and testimony.
After considering all evidence, the court will make a decision based on what is best for the child. Parental rights may be terminated for a variety of reasons, such as:
- When the child’s biological parent has neglected him or her for a prolonged length of time and hasn’t tried to keep in touch or provide for him or her.
- A biological parent may be declared unfit if they have a history of maltreatment, neglect, or drug misuse.
- If the biological parent cannot or will not consent to the adoption, then there is consent when the court deems it necessary.
- If a biological parent spends a significant amount of time behind bars.
Termination of parental rights is a serious legal issue and must be decided after thorough consideration.
All evidence should be evaluated to ensure that the decision is in the best interest of the child.
Furthermore, if the biological parent contests the decision, they have the right to appeal it, which can be a lengthy process.
Finalization of the Adoption
In Georgia, after the finalization of the adoption for stepparents wishing to adopt their stepchildren, the adoption process is complete and the stepparent gains legal parental rights.
At the court hearing to finalize the adoption, all parties will be present; from the stepparent and child to any others involved.
The judge will go over the home study, background check report, and other available information about the case to make sure all legal requirements have been met.
If the judge deems the adoption to best serve the child’s interest, they’ll approve it and issue an Order of Adoption.
This document legally recognizes the stepparent as the child’s parent and is required for updating the child’s birth certificate.
Once the adoption process is completed, the stepparent will be provided with all the legal parental rights just like a biological parent, such as having the authority to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and healthcare.
The adopted child can also inherit from the stepparent and is entitled to receive financial support.
The adoption process may vary across different counties and courts, so it’s important for stepparents to contact their local courthouse and find out the exact requirements and steps they need to take.
Should I Adopt My Stepchild?
A part of life is that many parents find themselves remarried with stepchildren. You may be asking yourself, should I adopt my stepchild?
You should adopt your stepchild if you are prepared for a lifelong commitment. Adoption is permanent, and you cannot change your mind should you and your spouse later decide to divorce. If you are prepared to love and honor your commitment to your adopted stepchild, you should adopt your stepchild.
If you are considering adopting your stepchild or stepchildren, there are some things you will want to think about before taking the plunge.
It is safe to assume that you love your stepchild, so let’s go over some things to make sure you have covered all your bases.
It is important to remember that adopting your stepchild is a lifelong commitment. You may have a very good marriage now, but even good marriages can turn rocky.
At the beginning of a new marriage, you are in love and over the moon with happiness. Having romantic ideas of how the family dynamics will be is normal and sets a positive path forward.
Just know that you cannot simply change your mind about the adoption down the road if your marriage does not work out.
If you are unwilling to continue the parent/child relationship if your marriage goes south, then you should not adopt your stepchild.
Should the marriage end in divorce, you will still need to have cordial communications with the child’s other parent to co-parent your child.
Other things to consider would be if your marriage ended in divorce, you would be financially responsible for half of the expense of raising the child.
After a divorce, you would still be tied to your spouse for life, as you would both have a child together. Until the child turns 18 years of age, there will still be periods when the child resides with you.
No one wants to think about the possibility of divorce when things feel so right. Statistically, however, about half of all marriages end in divorce.
If you are not willing to make a lifelong commitment to a child, then you should not adopt the child.
Providing you do decide to proceed with the adoption of your stepchild, keep in mind that there are things you will want and need to do afterward to tie up any loose ends.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Adopt My Stepchild?
It’s a common question, do you need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild?
You do not need a lawyer to adopt your stepchild. Visit your local courthouse to acquire the required court forms and a list of requirements. Although you are not required to have an attorney to adopt your stepchild, hiring an attorney for any life-changing event is highly recommended.
You most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild, as the process is a bit less complicated than other types of adoption.
Do-It-Yourself Stepparent Adoption in Georgia
Attorneys are nice to have and can do the leg work for you, but you most certainly do not need an attorney to adopt your stepchild.
If you are feeling a bit lost and want more information on starting your adoption journey, you may want to visit Georgia Adoption Requirements: Complete Guide.
Just keep in mind that many of the requirements will not apply to you if you are already residing with your stepchild.
Providing there is no anticipated legal battle from one of the biological parents, then one would be encouraged to obtain the court forms from your local courthouse, usually available to download online.
You may also wish to contact your local Department of Human Resources to speak to someone about how to process your adoption petition or reach out to your local courthouse.
Most courthouses have what is called a facilitator who helps guide you in the steps you need to take to complete legal processes without a lawyer.
Although it’s always best to reach out to your local courthouse or Department of Human Resources first, the following links may also be able to help you.
Stepparent Adoption Contested by Biological Parent
Adopting a stepchild involves obtaining the permission of both biological parents. You will need the blessing of your spouse as well as the other parent.
How will the biological parent feel about the idea of a stepparent wanting to adopt their child? This depends on the relationship between the biological parent and the child.
There are times when the other parent will voluntarily terminate their rights to their child. Perhaps there is very little relationship between the parent and child.
If the stepparent has taken on the active parenting role, and if the biological parent recognizes their lack of involvement, they may agree to know the adoption decision is in the best interest of their child.
When the biological parent’s rights are terminated, it also frees them from court-ordered financial obligations.
Sadly, this can be a huge motivating factor for some biological parents to voluntarily terminate their rights to their children.
What do you do, though, if the biological parent refuses to give permission and contests the adoption? States will almost always only allow two parents to have parental rights to a child. However, there have been a few cases where the courts have allowed three parents.
States are required to take the parental rights of the biological parent very seriously and will only terminate their parental rights if the parent is proven to be unfit, is not the true biological parent, or has in essence abandoned the child.
A parent can be found to be unfit for several reasons. Examples of an unfit parent can be things like being abusive or neglectful. Are they incarcerated or have they been incarcerated?
Is the biological parent’s home environment safe for this child? What type of people do they hang out with and have visited their homes? Many things can deem a parent unfit.
For a parent to be accused of parental abandonment, the parent must not have spent any time with the child or paid child support in a very long time, usually a year.
If there is a question of paternity and it can be proven through the court system that the “biological” parent is not the parent, after all, that opens the door for adoption possibilities.
However, the rights tend to be placed with the biological parent, so that can be a tricky scenario.
Telling a Child Their Stepparent is Adopting Them
Depending on the age of this child being adopted, you will most certainly be excited to tell them the good news! In some states, a child over a certain age will need to permit to be adopted.
Not telling the child they are being adopted by the stepparent can create mistrust and hurt down the road, so think twice if you were planning on not telling them until later.
I strongly encourage you to not keep the adoption hidden from the child or children. Allow them the opportunity to be excited about being adopted! Involve them in the process and celebrate!
And hats off to you if you are a stepparent considering adopting your stepchild. It takes a huge heart and unconditional love to adopt a child that is not biologically yours.
And when you are helping raise a child, you are already a huge part of their life whether you make it official or not.
What are the Home Study Requirements for Stepparent Adoptions in Georgia?
Prior to permitting an adoption to take place, a home study or home study is a screening of the home and lives of potential adoptive parents.
A home study is needed by legislation in some countries, as well as in all international adoptions. Even though it isn’t legally needed, an adoption agency may insist on it.
Typically, a home study is required for adoption, but in Georgia, the court may agree to waive this for stepparent and relative adoptions. In that case, a simple investigation will be performed.
Does the Stepchild Have to Consent to an Adoption in Georgia?
A child who is fourteen (14) years and older must provide signed consent to their own adoption in Georgia. Younger children are not required to give their consent.
You are encouraged to proceed with a stepparent adoption during a time when your stepchild will react favorably to knowing you are adopting them.
Important to remember when planning to adopt your stepchild is that it is likely your stepchild has been through quite a lot. Absent biological parents not voluntarily involved in their child’s life can be a painful emotion to live with for your stepchild.
Another thing to consider is the timing of the stepparent adoption. Was there a divorce previous to your marriage with your stepchild’s parent that your stepchild is still reeling from?
Children often suffer emotionally from the loss of a biological parent. Even a marriage viewed as a positive step forward takes time for a child to adjust to.
Consider letting the dust settle between major life events.
Can a Child Be Adopted Without the Father’s Consent in Georgia?
Under citation code § 19-8-12 (2020), a father’s consent to an adoption in Georgia involves the following.
- A biological father who is not a legal father may have an interest in his biological child. This inchoate interest is lost by failure to develop a familial bond with the child and acquires constitutional protection only if a biological father who is not a legal father develops a familial bond with the child;
- The subjective intent of a biological father who is not a legal father, whether expressed or otherwise, unsupported by evidence of acts manifesting such intent, shall not preclude a determination that a biological father who is not a legal father has failed to develop a familial bond with the child; and
- A man who has engaged in a nonmarital sexual relationship with a woman is deemed to be on notice that a pregnancy and adoption proceeding regarding a child may occur and has a duty to protect his own rights and interests in that child. He is therefore entitled to notice of an adoption proceeding only as provided in this Code section.
Justia US Law goes into much more detail on this law here.
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.