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Augusta GA Adoption Lawyer

The following information will help you understand Georgia’s adoption laws and the different types of adoptions. Please contact me with specific questions because this information is intended to be general in nature. Adoption law is governed by state statute. Therefore, it is essential that you consult an experienced adoption attorney for guidance regarding specific adoption cases.

What is adoption?

Adoption is a legal process that results in a court order declaring one person (generally a minor) to be the legal child of the adoptive parent or parents. When an adoption is finalized, the birth parents are no longer responsible for the child and they no longer have an obligation to support the child. In essence, the child becomes a legal stranger to his or her biological family.

Who may adopt in Georgia? 

Georgia law provides that any adult person 25 years old or older or an adult married couple may adopt a child. The prospective adoptive parents must be at least 10 years older than the child. Each adoptive parent must be a resident of Georgia, except for an adult adoption in which the adult to be adopted can satisfy this requirement.

Who may be adopted?

A child may be adopted if (a) the living parents or guardians voluntarily and in writing surrender all rights to the child to a licensed adoption agency or directly to the prospective adoptive parents; (b) the child has been abandoned or has no living parents; or (c) the rights of the biological parents are involuntarily terminated through a court proceeding. In addition, the court must find that the adoption is in the child’s best interest.

What is a private licensed adoption agency placement?

In an agency adoption, the birth mother relinquishes, or transfers, her parental rights to the licensed child-placing agency following the birth of her child. Thereafter, the adoption agency places the child with a prospective adoptive family approved through a comprehensive home study process. The private agency is responsible for screening the adoptive family, counseling the birth parents, handling the termination of rights of the biological parents of the child, providing permissible financial assistance to the birth mother, and supervising the placement until finalization. The agency holds legal custody of the child until finalization. Families can apply to Georgia or out-of-state licensed adoption agencies.

What is a public agency placement?

State agencies place children who are in state custody in foster care, foster/adopt, or adoptive placements with families who have been screened through a comprehensive training process. These children generally are in the custody of the state agency due to neglect, abandonment or misconduct of a parent, although in some cases there may be a voluntary transfer of parental rights to the agency. Most of the children are in foster care for a significant period of time before becoming legally free for adoption. In addition, many of the children have medical or emotional issues due to their difficult backgrounds and may be eligible for adoption assistance.

What is an independent or private adoption?

Georgia law permits the biological parents and prospective adoptive parents to work together in an adoption plan without the involvement of an adoption agency. In an independent adoption, the birth mother transfers all rights to a child directly to the prospective adoptive parents who are not related by blood or marriage (sometimes to an attorney as agent for the adoptive parents). A licensed agency is not involved in the placement process. In Georgia, the prospective adoptive parents may network with family, friends and other acquaintances to identify a birth parent and child. The laws in Georgia are restrictive regarding independent adoption in the areas of assistance that can be provided to a birth mother and the inability of prospective adoptive parents to advertise for a baby. It is essential for families to consult with an experienced adoption attorney early in the process to prevent problems.

Are there special rules that apply to interstate adoptions?

Yes. Many adoptions are more complicated because a prospective adoptive family may reside in one state and the birth mother may be a resident of another state (or a licensed adoption agency may be located in another state). In such cases, with limited exceptions, the adoption must satisfy certain legal requirements of both states before the child comes into or leaves the states. There is a specific statute, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, that governs interstate adoptions.

What is a stepparent adoption?

These are adoptions in which a spouse of a biological parent seeks to become the legal parent of a child. The adoption terminates the rights of the other biological parent (not the spouse of the prospective adoptive parent). Frequently, the child’s name is changed as part of the adoption. A court generally will not grant a stepparent adoption when the child’s legal mother or legal father objects and is participating in the child’s life in a meaningful way.

What is a relative adoption?

These are adoptions in which a blood relative seeks to become a legal parent of the child. The adoption terminates the rights of both biological parents to the child.

What is an adult adoption?

These are adoptions in which one adult adopts another adult and all parties support the adoption. The adoption results in a legal parent-child relationship. In an adult adoption, biological parents do not need to surrender their rights and notice does not need to be provided to a biological parent. Although most adult adoptions involve adoptions in which a stepparent adopts the child, there are instances in which a person adopts an adult who is not a stepchild.

What is an international adoption?

Families are frequently adopting children who are born in other countries, either through a licensed adoption agency or working privately with an attorney or intermediary in the other country. If the adoption is finalized in the other country, families should domesticate or “re-adopt” the child once they return home to the United States. With Georgia re-adoptions, the family will be able to obtain a Georgia adoption decree or certificate and a “birth certificate” from the Georgia Vital Records office. If the adoption has not been finalized in the other country, the family will need to satisfy more stringentrequirements of the adoption code governing either agency or independent adoptions. Following the adoption, the child will be issued a birth certificate (Proof of Foreign Birth) from the Georgia Vital Records office.

When is a home study done?

In an agency placement, a comprehensive home study assessment is completed before a placement occurs. A preplacement home evaluation must be done for all interstate independent adoptions before a child can be placed. If a Georgia family seeks to adopt a child born to a Georgia birth mother through an independent adoption, the court will appoint an investigator to complete an evaluation after the child is born and living in the prospective adoptive parents’ home.

Is it necessary for the adoptive parents to go to court?

Yes. In Georgia, the adoptive parents will file a Petition for Adoption in their county of residence. The petition will culminate in a court appearance by the attorney and the adoptive parents along with the child. The birth parents do not need to appear in court.

Following the final hearing, what kind of documentation is provided to the adoptive parents? 

In Georgia, in addition to receiving a Certificate of Adoption, the prospective adoptive parents will obtain a new birth certificate reflecting the adoptive parents as the child’s parents and the child’s new name. The original birth certificate and other court records are sealed by the court.

Can biological parents change their mind, or revoke their surrender, after signing the legal documents? 

Many states have a waiting period before a birth parent can sign a surrender (or relinquishment). In addition, many states have a certain period of time after signing in which biological parents can change their mind. In Georgia, biological parents proceeding in an independent adoption can sign surrender documents any time after a child is born. In an agency adoption, the biological mother and legal father of the child are not permitted to sign the surrender until 24 hours have passed from the birth of the baby. A biological father can sign any time after birth, even in an agency adoption. In all adoptions, Georgia law gives the biological parents a ten-day revocation period in which they can change their mind. The last day upon which a revocation can occur must be a business day.

What happens to the adoption records?

In Georgia, after an adoption is finalized, the adoption record is sealed. The original birth certificate is also sealed. The only way the record can be accessed is by court order or by following the procedures of the state adoption reunion registry.

What is adoption?

georgialawyers07ga035An adoption is the legal method used to give a person or couple all the parental rights and responsibilities to another person; normally an adoption involves a child. When the adoption is complete, the birth parents will have no rights to that child. They will not have the right to visit that child, nor will they be obligated or have any responsibilities in the raising of that child.

Who can adopt a child in Georgia?

Any one over the age of 25 and at least ten years older than the child can adopt in the state of Georgia. The person who is adopting the child must be a legal resident of Georgia. If an adult is being adopted, while extremely rare, the adult being adopted can be a resident of Georgia, but the adopting parent does not have to reside in Georgia.

Who can be adopted?

If a child’s parents have died, that child may be eligible for adoption. Any children who have been abandoned or given up by their parents voluntarily can be adopted. In some cases, the courts may terminate the parent’s rights to a child, who would then be eligible for adoption.

Is a child from a different state adoptable in Georgia?

Yes, but there are very specific rules regarding out-of-state adoptions. The adoption normally has to meet all the laws of both states before the child can move. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is the governing power behind interstate adoptions.

Is it possible to adopt a step-child?

Yes, but normally the biological parents of that child must agree to the adoption. If a stepfather adopts a child, the child’s biological father loses all his rights. The same would be true if a stepmother adopted a child. The child’s last name is generally changed as a part of the adoption.

Is it possible to adopt a relative?

Yes, but that child’s biological parents will lose all their rights. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles sometimes adopt children when the biological parents are unable or unwilling to properly take care of their children.

Is it possible to adopt a child from another country?

Yes. The easiest way to adopt a child is according to the laws of the other country and then bring the child back to Georgia and re-adopt them according to Georgia law. Filing the paperwork like this will allow the state of Georgia to issue a certificate of Proof of Foreign Birth that will show that you are the parents of this child. It’s possible to adopt a child in Georgia without going through the formal adoption process of the other country, but it’s very complicated and you should be careful not to violate the laws of the other country. Most countries have very stringent laws in place regarding taking a child out of the country, and you could be jailed if you don’t follow the laws of that country.

Is a court hearing necessary to adopt a child?

Yes. The only way to legally adopt a child is to file a petition for adoption in the county you live in. Your attorney, you, and the child will have to appear in court for the adoption hearing. The birth parents do not have to appear in court, but the judge will require that you prove the birth parents rights are terminated or voluntarily gave up the child.

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