At Your Law Firm, we understand the complexities that come with grandparent adoptions in Georgia, particularly when it involves the termination of parental rights.
In this page we will lay out more information about this very serious part of the adoption process, to help guide you through the intricacies of it, and to better know what to expect.
Let’s dive right in.
What is the Termination of Parental Rights in a Georgia Grandparent Adoption?
The termination of parental rights is a legal process where a court ends the legal parent-child relationship.
This step is often necessary in grandparent adoption cases to allow the grandparents to fully assume the role of legal parents.
The only way to get around this step is for both parents to voluntarily surrender or give up their parental rights.
If even one parent does not give up his or her rights voluntarily, then you must ask the court to terminate their rights first, before you can move forward with your grandparent adoption.
So, how do you go about doing this?
How to Terminate Parental Rights in Your Grandparent Adoption
Here’s a look at the way you can seek to have the parental rights of your grandchild’s parents terminated in your grandparent adoption in Georgia.
Ask Parents to Surrender Rights
In some cases, like we mentioned earlier, the biological parents may willingly surrender their rights, making the process more straightforward.
Depending on your relationship with your grandchild’s parents, you may be able to approach them, explain that you want to adopt your grandchild, and ask them to surrender their rights.
However, it is important to note that this is not appropriate or feasible in every situation.
In some instances, the parents may have abandoned their child for months or even years - and you do not want to contact them to ask about them surrendering their rights, because they might suddenly get involved and ruin your grandchild’s life, and throw a wrench into the adoption process.
At Your Law Firm, we only reach out to parents if the circumstances are appropriate to do so.
Otherwise, we move on to preparing our case to present to the court, asking the court to terminate the parents’ rights.
Gather all Evidence to Prove Grounds for Termination
Solid evidence is crucial to building a strong case for the termination of parental rights.
This can include proof of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or failure to support or communicate with the child.
Oftentimes at Your Law Firm, we allege more than one basis for the termination of your grandchild’s parent’s parental rights.
This is because if we lose in one area, we still have one or more other areas to argue for termination of parental rights.
We work diligently with you to identify and gather all information possible to support our case, including:
- Text Messages
- Phone Records
- Witness Testimony (including yours or others who know the situation between your grandchild and his or her parents)
- Voice Recordings
A large part of our time is spent here, gathering evidence and building the strongest case possible for our grandparent adoption clients, to make sure we show up to court armed and prepared to show the judge exactly why he or she needs to terminate the parental rights of the child’s parents.
File Petition for Termination of Parental Rights with Your Petition for Grandparent Adoption
The next step involves filing a petition for the termination of parental rights alongside your petition for grandparent adoption.
This procedure should be done with precision and accuracy to avoid any legal pitfalls.
It’s very important to do both at the same time.
At Your Law Firm, we put both petitions in the same document, along with the supporting evidence.
Get a Court Date for the Termination of Parental Rights Hearing
Once the petitions are filed, you will receive a court date for the termination hearing.
You want to make sure that you have two separate court hearings, even if they are on the same day: one for the termination and one for the grandparent adoption.
It is important to prepare thoroughly for this critical stage, and where all your prep work from before, when you gathered all the evidence for why the judge should terminate the parents’ rights, comes into play.
Serve Notice of the Filings and the Court Date on the Parents
The parents must be served with notice of the filings and the court date.
This ensures they have an opportunity to contest if they wish.
In Georgia, the parents are not made a party to the adoption hearing, and are not required to file an answer to the claims against them.
What they can do is show up and provide evidence as to why they believe their parental rights to your grandchild should not be terminated.
Attend and Argue the Termination of Parental Rights Hearing
At the hearing, you will have the opportunity to present your case and argue for the termination of parental rights.
We work with our clients to present a meticulous and thorough argument supported by our evidence, so the judge understands why we believe the parents’ rights should be terminated, based on the applicable statutory grounds.
Then, the Court Decides Whether to Deny or Grant the Termination of Parental Rights
The court will then make a decision based on the evidence presented and the best interest of the child.
What happens if they deny your request? What happens if they grant your request?
If the Court Denies Termination of Parental Rights…
In the sad event that the court disagrees with you, and declines to terminate your grandchild’s parents’ rights, here’s what happens.
Custody of the Child Reverts to Whomever Had Custody Before the Hearing
If the court denies the termination, custody of the child reverts back to the original custodian prior to the hearing.
If you as the grandparent already had custody of your grandchild, then thankfully, the child will remain with you.
However, if the child was in the custody of the state or another party, they will return to that person’s custody.
You Can Appeal the Court’s Decision
If you disagree with the court's decision, know that you have the right to appeal.
However, this must be done immediately to preserve your right to appeal.
You must request an appeal within 30 days, and then once the appeals court grants you the right to appeal, you must file your appeal within 10 days of being granted the right to appeal.
If the Court Grants the Termination of Parental Rights…
Now, if the court agrees with you and orders for the termination of your grandchild's parents’ rights, here’s what can happen.
The Parents Can Appeal the Court’s Decision
Similarly, if the court grants the termination, the parents also have the right to appeal, but they must do so promptly.
Also, during the time that the parent is waiting for the appeal to be heard, the order terminating their rights is still in effect.
The Court Goes On to the Adoption Hearing
Once the termination is granted, the court proceeds to the adoption hearing, where the grandparent adoption can be finalized, if granted.
At this stage, the court evaluates whether the adoption is in the best interest of the child.
It is paramount to demonstrate that the child's welfare is prioritized in the new arrangement.
Once you’ve presented your evidence that the adoption is in the best interest of your grandchild, the judge will make a ruling either granting or denying the adoption.
Navigating the legal landscape of grandparent adoption and termination of parental rights can be challenging.
At Your Law Firm, we are committed to providing expert legal guidance and support through every step of the grandparent adoption process, including terminating the parental rights of your grandchild.
Our goal is to help you navigate these complexities with confidence and peace of mind.
If you’re in the North Georgia or metro Atlanta area, feel free to reach out to us today to start the conversation about your grandparent adoption journey. We are here to serve any way we can.