Adopting a grandchild in Georgia involves several legal steps and processes.
One of those important steps is actually going to court in your grandparent adoption case.
It is essential to understand this step of going to court, to ensure a smooth, efficient adoption process.
At Your Law Firm, we partner with grandparents from start to finish in their adoption journey, including going to court.
In this page, we’ll explore what going to court looks like in a Georgia grandparent adoption.
Let’s get started.
File Your Adoption Case
Filing your adoption case is the first step towards adopting your grandchild.
In Georgia, you should file your case in Superior Court of the county where you live.
This ensures that the case is handled by the local court with jurisdiction over your residence.
Get a Court Date
Once your case is filed, you must contact either your assigned judge’s office or a calendar clerk to get a court date.
This date will be when you formally present your case to the court.
You need to go ahead and get a court date right away, in case you need to notify other parties, such as your grandchild’s parents.
If Terminating Parental Rights, Notify Parents
In Georgia, if you do not already have voluntary surrenders of parental rights from the parents, you must request the court to have the parental rights terminated.
You must give proper notice of the court hearing for this termination, and you must do so in enough time before the hearing.
If you do not know where the parent is, you can notify them by publication.
Prepare for Court
Preparation for court is crucial.
In Georgia, you must support your grandparent adoption petition with evidence, and present it to the court.
This evidence is what the judge will use to make their decision.
The standard that the judge uses to evaluate your case is “by clear and convincing evidence”.
Evidence to Support Termination of Parental Rights
In Georgia, there are several grounds to terminate the parents’ rights.
You must show evidence of all alleged grounds to the court.
For example, if your ground for termination is that the parent has abandoned their child for over one year, you must show proof of how the parent had the ability and freedom to contact the child, but did not.
Also, if your ground is that the parent refused to pay court order child support for over a year, you must show that they were under court order to do so, able to do so, and did not pay anything.
We at Your Law Firm work with our clients to prepare the best case possible for termination of parental rights hearings, to make sure that you put the most compelling case forward for the judge to grant your request, and to terminate your grandchild’s parents’ rights.
Evidence to Support the Adoption
Ensure you have all evidence, including witness testimony, to show the court that it is in your grandchild’s best interest for you to adopt him or her.
And, if your grandchild is 14 years old or older, he or she will need to tell the judge that they consent to you adopting them.
Sometimes, you will have a guardian ad litem appointed to investigate and make sure the adoption is or is not in the best interest of your grandchild.
If that happens, then the guardian will also testify and offer evidence to either support or contest the adoption.
Work with Your Georgia Grandparent Adoption Attorney
While you are not required to have an attorney to bring your grandparent adoption case in Georgia, we always recommend doing so.
The court hearing can be complex and you can be denied on a mere technicality.
Your attorney will know what evidence to get and how best to present it to the court, giving you the best chance possible for your adoption to be granted.
Present Your Case in Court
In Georgia, you must go to court for all adoptions, even if all parties agree.
If you’re asking the court to terminate your grandchild’s parent’s rights, you’ll have that hearing first, and then the adoption hearing afterwards, if the parental rights are terminated.
Termination of Parental Rights Hearing
In Georgia, the parents have a right to appear and object to their rights being terminated.
This is where you present all your evidence you prepared ahead of time, to support all the reasons why, legally, the court should terminate the parental rights of your grandchild’s parents.
Adoption Hearing - Best Interest of the Child
In a Georgia grandparent adoption, after the parental rights are terminated, or if the parental rights are voluntarily surrendered, you will have a hearing before the judge.
The judge will ensure that the adoption being granted is in the best interest of your grandchild.
The judge can ask you and your grandchild questions if he or she would like to do so, after your attorney presents the case for adoption.
It’s important to note that, in Georgia, the judge makes the final decision (not a jury) in an adoption case.
Grant or Deny the Termination of Parental Rights
In Georgia, parental rights being terminated comes first, before the adoption can take place.
The judge has the authority to either grant or deny this termination.
This is based on the evidence you presented to the court, evaluated under a clear and convincing standard, as to why the judge should terminate your grandchild’s parents’ rights.
Grant or Deny the Adoption
Thankfully, most Georgia adoptions are granted.
In Georgia, a judge will usually only deny a grandparent adoption if it is going to be harmful or bad for the child.
However, in the event that your grandparent adoption is not granted, you do have the right to seek an appeal before the appellate courts in Georgia.
You have a short window of 30 days to file this direct appeal to the court of appeals.
Once received, your appellate attorney must submit their legal argument within 20 days - and then the other side has 20 days after that to submit their own response.
Final Decree of Adoption
In Georgia, the judge will sign a Final Decree of Adoption upon granting your grandparent adoption.
This Decree is usually prepared beforehand by your grandparent adoption attorney.
At Your Law Firm, we make sure to have all paperwork prepped and ready for the judge, even if he or she must make some minor changes.
We don’t want there to be any delay for you in adopting your grandchild, if we can help it.
Adopting a grandchild in Georgia can be a complex process, but understanding the steps necessary in court and having a competent attorney by your side can make the journey smoother.
It's important to remember that the court always acts in the best interest of the child, and as a grandparent, your love and commitment towards your grandchild's welfare will be your guiding force throughout this process.
To find out more, give us a call at Your Law Firm to discuss your options for grandparent adoption in Georgia. We are here to serve any way we can.