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Stepparent Adoptions in Georgia

Georgia Lawyers Divorce, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Business, ImmigrationFor many families, pursuing a stepparent or second-parent adoption means making a significant commitment to strengthening the unbreakable bonds that tie them together.  While shared love, trust, and emotional connection serve as the heart of any good family, formalizing these relationships through adoption proceedings has particular legal benefits.

In Georgia, stepparent adoption is intended to be a straightforward legal procedure.  It often means filing the necessary paperwork with the court, which includes securing approval from both biological parents.

However, there are instances where an absent father that was never legitimized does not have to consent to a step-parent adoption.  This is a complex area of law that should be discussed with a Georgia attorney that is experienced with the adoption process in Georgia.

What is Stepparent Adoption?

Stepparent adoption is a legally binding process in which the stepparent has the same rights and obligations as a biological or legal parent over their stepchild.  This includes acquiring the authority to make decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and other critical raising issues.  Equally important, the stepparent takes on the legal responsibility to give financial support and resources for the child’s development.

Qualifications to Adopt

Prospective adoptive parents in Georgia must meet the following qualifications:

  1. Be at least twenty-one (21) years of age or married and living with their spouse.
  2. Must be at least ten (10) years older than the child, except when the individual is a stepparent or relative of the child.
  3. Be a resident of Georgia when the petition for adoption is filed or be a resident of the receiving state when the child (adoptee) was born in Georgia.  Or is a resident of Georgia at the time of placement for adoption and was placed in another state in compliance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) – A non-resident of Georgia is considered to have complied with the ICPC if the agreement does not apply or if the individual is a resident of another nation.
  4. Be financially, physically, and intellectually capable of obtaining permanent possession of the child. If the person seeking to adopt the child is married, the adoption petition must be filed in the names of both spouses.  However, if the child is or was the individual’s stepchild, the petition must be filed only by the stepparent.

See: https://dfcs.georgia.gov/services/adoption/adopting-georgia

Furthermore, prospective adoptive parents must be inspired and motivated to care for the child or children placed with them.  Adoptive parents make an unwavering commitment to meeting the physical, emotional, medical, psychological, and social needs of the child or children in their care.

Advantages of Stepparent Adoption

• Child’s Healthcare Insurance:  Once the adoption is finalized, the child can be covered under the stepparent’s health insurance, ensuring their medical needs are met.
• Entitlement to Workers’ Compensation Benefits:  In the event of a work-related injury or illness to the stepparent, the child is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
• Qualification for Social Security Benefits:  If the stepparent dies or becomes disabled, the child may become eligible for Social Security benefits, including survivor benefits.
• Entitlement to Support, Custody, and Visitation Arrangements:  Adoption enables the stepparent to have the same rights as a biological parent regarding child support, custody, and visitation arrangements.
• Stepparent’s Consent to Medical Treatment:  The stepparent will gain the authority to consent to the child’s medical treatment, which can be critical in emergencies where quick decisions need to be made.
• Inclusion of Stepparent’s Name on the Child’s Birth Certificate:  By adding their name to the child’s birth certificate, the stepparent can be officially recognized as a parent.
• Protection in Case of Biological Parent’s Death or Incapacitation:  Should the biological parent die or become incapacitated, the child’s relationship with the stepparent will be legally protected.

Different Situations Under Adoption

Specifically, there are two situations in which a child might be adopted by their stepparent, and the process that the adopting parent must go through varies depending on the circumstances.  The first set of conditions entails the adoption of a kid by the spouse of one of the child’s biological parents when the other biological parent is deceased.  Suppose the child’s other biological parent is no longer alive. In that case, the living parent’s spouse may adopt the child, but only if the living parent agrees in writing for the adoption.  See O.C.G.A. § 19-8-6(a)(2).  For example, if the stepfather would like to adopt his stepchild and the child’s biological father is no longer alive, the stepfather may do so if the mother gives consent. And the spouse must file the petition to adopt his or her stepchild with the court.

Alternatively, in circumstances where both of the child’s biological parents are still alive, the stepparent adoption criteria differ.  Assume that the child’s biological parents are still alive but not married.  In that instance, the child may only be adopted by their stepparent if the other parent freely relinquishes parental rights in writing and consents to the adoption.  See O.C.G.A. § 19-8-6(a)(1)However, there are instances where an absent father that was never legitimized may not be required to consent to a step-parent adoption.  This is a complex area of law that should be discussed with an experienced Georgia adoption attorney.

In Georgia, a stepparent may seek or petition to adopt a stepchild only after the biological parent’s rights have been terminated and with the consent of the custodial parent.  Therefore, the other non-custodial parent’s parental rights must be terminated entirely.  This will include any child support payments issued by the court, which are frequently the primary issue in these disputes.  There are two ways to terminate these privileges. First, the biological parent may voluntarily waive all parental rights. If withdrawal is not voluntary, the court must determine parental rights.

If the court decides which rights prevail, it will only terminate parental rights if the parent has abandoned the child.  That means the court must determine that the biological parent did not contact or interact with the child, or at least did not attempt to do so, for no legitimate reason. The conversation or attempted communication must be relevant, supporting, and parental to be regarded as significant.  The court could also conclude that the parent failed to give the care and assistance mandated by law or judicial judgment.

Once the biological parent’s rights have been terminated, either willingly or by the court, the stepparent must petition the court to adopt the child.  This procedure may include a house visit, court appearances, and various forms of paperwork.  The court will eventually decide whether to proceed with the adoption.

Another condition that applies to either situation is that the child involved is fourteen (14) years of age or older. In this case, the child must give written approval for the adoption.  See O.C.G.A. § 19-8-6(b).  If you are a stepparent and wish to adopt your stepchild, submit a Petition for Stepparent Adoption.  Unlike adoption in other situations, only the stepparent seeking to adopt their stepchild is required to file a petition for adoption. O.C.G.A. § 19-8-3(c).

Regardless of the circumstances that motivate families to pursue adoption, the motivating reason is to provide a supportive, secure, and loving environment where all members can thrive. In essence, stepparent and second-parent adoptions are profound acts of love and commitment – a deliberate decision to strengthen the sacred links of family through the force of the law.  While the emotional foundations may have already been built, this legal process strengthens those bonds, creating a foundation of stability and permanence for families to build their futures together.

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Divorce and Family Law – Georgia Areas We Serve

Our Georgia divorce lawyers and family law attorneys handle cases in the following cities and communities: Atlanta, Alpharetta, Roswell, Duluth, Johns Creek, Milton, Cumming, Sharon Springs, Suwanee, Marietta, Woodstock, Sandy Springs, Kennesaw, Gainesville, Midtown Atlanta, Norcross, Lawrenceville, Buckhead, Dunwoody, Vinings, Smyrna, Buford, Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, Decatur, Grant Park, East Atlanta, and Virginia Highlands.

Our Georgia divorce lawyers and family law attorneys frequently handle cases for clients residing in the following counties: Fulton, Gwinnett, Forsyth, Cobb, DeKalb, Henry, Cherokee, Douglas, Carroll, Coweta, Paulding, Bartow, Hall, Barrow, Walton, Newton, Rockdale, Henry, Spalding, Fayette, and Clayton.

Coleman Legal Group, LLC’s Georgia lawyers practice in the areas of Divorce, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Estates, Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, Sports and Entertainment Law, Immigration, and Business Law.

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