If you are interested in adopting a child, you will need to encounter the legal system at some point.
All adoptions in the State of Georgia are required to go through a legal process to state your intent to adopt, terminate any parental rights that may still exist, and - if granted - legally declare you the new parent of the child you are wanting to adopt.
We have complied a list of types of adoptions we work with at Your Law Firm and some frequently asked questions we hear about adoptions.
Read on to find out more - and if you think we can help, please contact us to set up a meeting with one of our Case Management Officers (CMOs) to see if we are a good fit, and to discuss next steps from there.
Here's what we'll cover:
- Adoptions in Georgia - requirements for who can adopt and how
- Grandparent Adoption - when a grandkid needs a parent
- Stepparent Adoption - when a stepparent wants to adopt their bonus child
- Adoption by a Close Relative - who can adopt another relative and how
- Contested Adoptions - when the parents don't want to give up rights
- Reasons Why People Adopt - providing a fresh start
- What to Expect When You Adopt - how to be prepared
- How Adoption Works - the process
- How Do I Adopt a Child? - things to know before you adopt
- How to Start the Adoption Process - first steps towards your new family
- How Much Does It Cost to Adopt? - financial planning for your adoption journey
- Adopting a Child from Overseas - important things to know about overseas adoptions
Georgia Adoption - requirements for who can adopt and how in GA
Who can adopt a child in Georgia? Any individual can start the adoption process if they meet the following criteria, based on Georgia law:
- They are at least 21 years old - or, if they are married and living with their spouse, they may be younger than 21.
- They are at least 10 years older than the child - but if someone wants to adopt a stepchild or a relative, then this age gap doesn't apply.
- They are a resident of Georgia OR they are a resident of the state where the child lives, if the child was born in Georgia or was a resident of Georgia when placed with the person(s).
- They are financially, physically, and mentally able to have permanent custody of the child.
While you do not have to be married to adopt, if you are married, you both must file to adopt the child together (unless you are adopting your stepchild).
Be prepared for your life and the lives of those in your immediate family to be gone over with a fine-tooth investigative comb. The adoption process in Georgia includes a thorough screening and evaluation process to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.
If the child you are adopting is 14 years or older, they will need to give written consent to the adoption. They will also let the judge know, in court, of their consent.
Furthermore, adoption in Georgia requires a full legal process involving the court system to finalize the adoption.
We always recommend that you contact a local adoption law firm - like us at Your Law Firm, for the Metro Atlanta and North Georgia area - in order to find out more details of what that legal process looks like.
Grandparent Adoption - when a grandkid needs a parent
Grandparent adoption is a legal option in Georgia for grandparents who are seeking to formally adopt their grandchild.
Why would a grandparent need or want to adopt their grandchild?
Many times we see tragic stories of parents dying young, or being so far gone in drug or alcohol addiction that they are not fit to parent their own children - and will likely never be. In that case, most of the time the child has already been placed to live with the grandparents, either by DFCS (Division of Family and Children Services) or voluntarily by the parents.
We usually see grandparents want to take the next step and finalize their relationship as "parent" when there is concern that if something happens to the grandparents, the grandchildren will either go back to the unfit parents, or be put in care of the State with DFCS.
So, how does it work?
To qualify for grandparent adoption, the grandparents must show that the biological parents are either deceased or have otherwise lost or given up their parental rights.
The grandparents must also prove that adoption is in the best interest of the child - that they want to and are able to care for the child like a parent, and that their home is a suitable and desired place to raise the child.
Other than that, the adoption process for grandparents is similar to that of regular adoption, including a thorough screening and evaluation process as well as a legal proceeding in court to terminate any still-open parental rights, and to grant or deny the final adoption as the court sees fit.
Stepparent Adoption - when a stepparent wants to adopt their bonus child
In a world of blended families, it is worth it to note that in Georgia, a stepparent can adopt their spouse's child (aka, their own bonus child) if the other biological and/or legal parent has either given up their parental rights, passed away, or are deemed unfit or unable to care for the child.
How can a stepparent adopt their stepchild?
To start the adoption process, the stepparent must file a petition for adoption in the court of the county where they reside, along with proper documentation proving the other biological parent and/or legal parent has terminated their rights - or showing that their rights should be terminated, due to their lack of fitness as a parent.
The stepparent must also obtain consent from their spouse, who is the biological/legal parent, to adopt the child.
If the child is over the age of 14, their consent to the adoption is also required.
Once the case has been filed, the court will hold a hearing to see if the other parent's rights need to be terminated, and if so, or if they are already terminated, then the court will make a ruling on whether to grant the adoption or not.
Once the adoption is granted, that child is no longer a stepchild of their stepparent, but a legal child of that parent.
Adoption by a Close Relative - who can adopt another relative and how
Besides grandparents, other relatives such as aunts, uncles or siblings can also adopt a child who they are related to in GA.
What kinds of relatives can adopt? You must be related to the child by blood or by marriage, and you must fall into one of the following relationship categories:
- Great-grandparent (parents of the grandparents)
- Great Aunt (aunt of one of the parents of the child)
- Great Uncle (uncle of one of the parents of the child)
If you do not fall into one of those specific relationship categories, then you will have to proceed as a third-party, non-relative adoption, even if you do have another type of blood or marriage relationship to the child (such as cousin).
If you do decide to adopt a relative, what's next?
First, the biological parents must have voluntarily or otherwise terminated their parental rights, or are deemed unable or unfit to care for the child by the court. Furthermore, you must demonstrate to the court that the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
As with all adoptions, you must provide documentation and proof demonstrating that you meet certain legal requirements, such as being financially stable and emotionally capable of caring for the child.
You will file the petition for adoption in the court of the county where you reside - regardless of where the child lives. Though you are able to file where the child lives, if the court allows it.
Then, you will go to court and if the parent's rights are still active, the judge will have a hearing to determine if they should be terminated.
If so, you will then present to the court why you should adopt your relative, and if the judge decides it's in the best interest of the child and that your other legal requirements are in order, they will grant the adoption, making your relationship as parent and child final and legal.
Contested Adoptions - when the parents don't want to give up rights
A contested adoption means that the parents either won't give up their rights voluntarily, or they cannot be located to see if they will or won't give up their rights.
In either case, you will have to take an extra step, in any adoption, if you do not already have the signed and valid voluntary termination of parental rights on hand. For these types of adoptions, a petition for a termination of parental rights (TPR) must be filed with the court along with the adoption, citing reasons why the parent's rights should be terminated. Reasons may include abandonment, neglect, abuse, or other factors that may be deemed harmful to the child's well-being.
How do you terminate a parent's rights?
Part of this depends on if the parent is only the biological parent (usually in the case of a father that wasn't married to the child's mother at any point, and who never took the steps to be declared the legal father, called "legitimation"), or if the parent is a legal parent.
Biological parents only have to be put on notice of the adoption - they do not get to be involved in it, unless and until they file a petition of their own with the court seeking to be declared the legal parent.
Legal parents do have a right to know of the proceeding, even though they are not parties to it. They can argue in court at the TPR why their parental rights should not be terminated, and the judge will decide from there what to do, based on what is in the best interest of the child.
What happens next?
If the TPR is granted, the adoption process can continue - in which the judge will determine if the parents seeking to adopt are fit and if the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
However, if the TPR is denied, the adoption cannot proceed without the voluntary termination of parental rights or an appeal to the court's decision which results in the denial being overturned.
A contested adoption is a fight and we have found that it can be a long and emotionally difficult process for our clients. But, it is a fight that is worth it, and we are here to help you every step of the way.
Reasons Why People Adopt - providing a fresh start
Some people who have never thought of adopting themselves may ask why anyone would want to adopt in the first place. We've seen and heard several different common reasons why someone would want to adopt. Those reasons include:
Couples who struggle with infertility may choose to adopt as an alternative way to expand their family, and to provide a home to a child who needs one.
Desire to help a child in need
Some people choose to adopt to provide a loving and stable home to a child who may not have one, such as a child in foster care, regardless of if they already have other children or not.
Some individuals feel a calling to adopt, whether for religious or moral reasons, and want to make a difference in a child's life by providing them a family to call their own.
Some couples may choose to adopt as a way to add to their family without an additional pregnancy, and give their biological children siblings and their adopted children a place to call home.
Some people choose to adopt internationally to connect with their heritage or culture and help a child overseas that needs a loving home.
In our experience, we've seen that adoption can be a selfless act of kindness that can benefit both the child and the adoptive family. Adoption also gives loving and stable homes to children who may have experienced a difficult upbringing or the tragic loss of a parent.
What to Expect When You Adopt - how to be prepared
Adopting a child is a significant event for any family, and it is important to be prepared for what to expect before, during, and after the adoption process. Here are some things to consider:
- Research the adoption process: Understanding the laws, requirements, and steps involved in the adoption process is crucial. Researching adoption laws in Georgia and working with a reliable adoption agency and/or attorney can help you navigate the adoption process with confidence.
- Prepare emotionally: Adoption can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Just as with any legal case, no one can guarantee the outcome. The emotions are enhanced therefore by the case being so close to home and tied to those you love. Preparing yourself ahead of time for the possibility of rejection or delays can help you handle the process better.
- Establish support network: An adoption support group or individual therapist can offer support and guidance throughout the process. Friends and family can also provide emotional support.
- Prepare paperwork: Be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork during the adoption process, such as legal documents, background checks, and financial statements. Your attorney and/or adoption agency will guide you through this process, but do not be overwhelmed.
- Be patient: The adoption process can be lengthy and often involves waiting for approvals and placements. It also includes waiting on the court system once it is filed, and waiting on investigations to be made and completed during the process. Be prepared for potential delays and remain patient.
- Create a new routine: Adopting a child will require adjustment and establishing new routines for everyone in your family. Ensure that the child feels safe, loved, and comfortable in their new home.
- Update all legal documents: Get a new birth certificate and social security number for the child. Also, update their legal name if it was changed in the adoption.
- Access support system: Post-adoption support can help provide closure and address any challenges that may arise. Connect with available resources such as counseling services, social workers, or adoption support groups.
Adopting a child is a life-changing and significant event for any family. Being prepared for what to expect before, during, and after the adoption process can help ensure a successful adoption and a smoother transition for the child.
How Adoption Works - the process
The adoption process in Georgia involves several steps that can take several months to complete. Here are some steps in the adoption process you can expect:
- Choose an adoption agency or attorney: The first step is to choose a reputable adoption agency or attorney in Georgia to help navigate the legal process. Go with someone local to your court system, and someone you trust that will communicate with you regularly.
- Complete an application (third-party adoptions): Prospective adoptive parents must complete an application provided by the state or their chosen adoption agency, for third-party adoptions. Relative and stepparent adoptions will not need to do this step.
- Background checks: Adoptive applicants must undergo criminal background checks as part of the evaluation process.
- Home study: A social worker or court investigator will conduct a home study to evaluate the safety and suitability of the home environment. This is even true in some cases where the child already lives with the family.
- Training: In some instances, for agency or third-party adoptions, applicants must complete required training courses on the adoption process, family dynamics, and child behavior management.
- Matching with a child (if third-party): The adoption agency will work to match prospective parents with a child or children based on their preferences and suitability, for third-party adoptions.
- Placement and legal proceedings: Once matched with a child or children, the prospective parents will work with the attorney to complete the legal process, including a placement hearing if needed, terminating any open parental rights, and the finalization of the adoption in court.
- Post-adoption supervision: After the finalization of the adoption, in some cases a social worker from the agency or court may conduct post-adoption supervision visits to ensure progress and well-being of the adopted child.
It is essential to understand the legal and emotional requirements of the adoption process. Working with a reputable adoption agency or attorney who can provide support throughout the process is key to ensure a successful adoption experience.
How Do I Adopt a Child? - things to know before you adopt
Starting the adoption process in Georgia involves several steps. Here are some important things to expect and consider before you start:
- Research and choose an adoption agency or attorney: It's crucial to work with a reputable adoption agency or attorney. Research online, ask for referrals, and check reviews before making a decision. It's okay to talk to multiple agencies or law firms at once - this is an important, life-changing decision, and it's important to make sure you feel comfortable with the representation you ultimately hire.
- Understand Georgia adoption laws: Familiarize yourself with Georgia adoption laws as they will guide the entire adoption process. If you use an agency or attorney, they will be able to help you along the way, keeping you updated and answering any questions you may have.
- Decide on the type of adoption: Georgia allows for various types of adoptions, including domestic, international, open, and closed adoptions. It's essential to consider which type of adoption suits your family's needs best, based upon the child you are adopting, your pre-adoption relationship to them (grandparent, aunt, stepparent, non-relative, etc.), and the involvement of the biological/legal parents.
- Consider the financial aspect: The cost of adoption can vary depending on the type of adoption and agency or attorney fees - however, it is a significant investment. Understanding the financial requirements and planning for the cost of adoption is crucial, prior to deciding to adopt.
- Assess your readiness to adopt: Self-assessment of your readiness and suitability to adopt is also essential. Consider factors such as emotional and financial readiness, stability, support network, and ability to commit to the child. This is a life-altering decision - a wonderful one, but one you should not take without much consideration as it is permanent.
- Complete the required paperwork: Once you have selected a reputable agency or attorney, you will need to complete an application, background checks, and home study evaluations - among other items. Your agency and/or attorney will be able to walk you through these steps and beyond.
Starting the adoption process in Georgia can be a significant milestone for any family. It is essential to understand the requirements and outcome of the adoption process thoroughly. Working with a reputable agency or attorney and being prepared emotionally, financially, and lifestyle, is the key to a successful adoption experience.
How to Start the Adoption Process - first steps towards your new family
If you've considered and weighed the options, and you want to adopt, congratulations! Starting the adoption process in Georgia can be exciting, but it's also important to understand the first steps to expect and some pitfalls to avoid.
Here are some potential actions you can take:
- Complete an adoption application: To start with the adoption process, you may need to fill out an adoption application. The application is typically provided by the agency or attorney you have selected. Honesty is the best policy here, as any omission of information can come back to hurt you later on in court.
- Schedule a home study: A home study is a necessary evaluation to ensure that your home is safe and suitable for a child. You can schedule a home visit with your adoption agency or attorney to start the process.
- Prepare documentation: You may need to gather and prepare documentation such as financial statements, medical records, and reference letters. Your adoption agency or attorney can provide a list of the required documents.
- Attend required training sessions: Depending on the type of adoption, you may need to attend required training sessions. These sessions help prepare you for the adoption process and provide valuable information on how to care for an adopted child.
Some potential pitfalls to avoid include:
- Not researching and selecting a reputable adoption agency or attorney.
- Failing to disclose required information on the adoption application or during the home study evaluation.
- Communication breakdown between the adoptive family and the adoption agency or attorney.
- Unrealistic expectations for the adoption process.
Set yourself up for success
Starting the adoption process can be a long and emotional journey. By working with a reputable adoption agency or attorney, being honest and transparent throughout the process, and managing your expectations, you can ensure a successful adoption experience.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt? - financial planning for your adoption journey
The cost of adoption in Georgia can vary depending on several factors such as the type of adoption, adoption agency, and attorney fees.
Generally, the cost of domestic adoption in Georgia can range from $20,000 to $50,000, while international adoption can range from $30,000 to $60,000.
Usually, uncontested adoptions are closer to the lower end of the spectrum, while contested adoptions are near to or could even succeed the higher end of the spectrum.
Develop a financial plan
Here are some tips for prospective adoptive parents to consider when developing a financial plan for the adoption process in Georgia:
- Research the cost: Understanding the cost of adoption in Georgia is important for you to develop a financial plan. Research different agencies and attorneys to compare prices. Know that it's not just the agency or attorney fee you are paying for, but also court costs, investigative costs, and plane tickets and visas (if international).
- Consider fundraising ideas: Adoption fundraising events can help you raise funds to cover some of the costs of adoption. Research different fundraising options such as crowdfunding or charity events. Most people, whether those you know or even strangers, would love to support the opportunity for a child to have a loving and stable home.
- Look into tax credits and subsidies: The federal government usually offers a tax credit of up to a certain amount for adoptive parents, and there are also various state adoption subsidies for children with special needs.
- Explore loan options: Some financial institutions offer adoption loans with flexible repayment options. Even some law firms or adoption agencies may work with you to provide a loan-based payment plan, usually done through a third-party financing provider.
- Plan your budget: Plan your household budget carefully, cut back unnecessary expenses and save for the adoption process. Get help from family and friends or your support group when you can.
- Consider flexible payment plans: Some agencies or attorneys offer flexible payment plans that allow the cost of adoption to be spread out over a more extended period. Make sure you ask to see if this is available in your specific case.
The cost of adoption in Georgia can be high, but it should not be a barrier to bringing a child home. By developing a comprehensive financial plan and exploring various options such as fundraising and loans, prospective adoptive parents can navigate and succeed in the adoption process.
Adopting a Child from Overseas - important things to know about overseas adoptions
To adopt a child from overseas in the state of Georgia, families must follow the same process as a domestic adoption but with some additional federal and international requirements.
Here are some important steps and things to know:
- Choose an accredited international adoption agency: The U.S. Department of State regulates international adoptions, and prospective adoptive parents must work with an accredited agency. Check with the Department of State to ensure that the agency you are considering is accredited.
- File a form I-600A: This form needs to be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the adoption process begins. This will be expedited if you have already begun a domestic adoption process to avoid time delays.
- Obtain adoption approval from the foreign country: You need to obtain approval from the foreign country to adopt a child. This is usually done through a central authority in that country.
- Complete the home study: Prospective adoptive parents must complete a home study that meets the criteria for the agency or attorney.
- Obtain a visa for the adopted child: The adoptive parents need to apply for a visa for the adopted child. You will need to work with USCIS and the U.S. embassy in the country where the child is located.
The cost of international adoption may be more expensive than domestic adoption, and this is because U.S. immigration laws require additional background checks, immigration approval, and extra paperwork. International adoption can cost upwards of $30,000 to $60,000 in total. It is important to understand the financial requirements of international adoption and plan accordingly.
Adopting a child from overseas involves additional federal and international requirements. Working with an accredited international adoption agency, obtaining adoption approval from the foreign country, completing the home study, and obtaining a visa for the adopted child are critical steps. It is important for families to understand the cost of international adoption and the international adoption process that varies from country to country.
In Conclusion - Adopting in Georgia
As we've seen, adopting a child in Georgia is a special and rewarding experience for families.
Prospective adoptive parents need to be aware that there are various types of adoption in Georgia such as relative, stepparent, grandparent, third-party and international adoption.
The cost of these adoptions can vary depending on the type of adoption, agency fees and attorney’s fees.
It is important to do your research and understand the requirements of each type of adoption before making any decisions.
There are also financial considerations such as tax credits, subsidies, loans, and payment plans that may help cover the expenses associated with adoption.
Ultimately, with careful planning and preparation, adoptive families can bring joy into their lives through successful adoptions in Georgia.
For more information on your specific situation, contact us at Your Law Firm today!