In today’s world blended families are increasingly common. This means a stepmother or a stepfather often takes on a critical role in a child’s life. In certain situations, especially when a biological mother or father is unable to meet the financial, physical or emotional needs of his or her child, it may be appropriate for the child’s stepmother or stepfather to seek to adopt the child. Adoption cements the relationship between a child and the adoptive stepparent in all aspects. Once the adoption is granted, the adoptive parent will have the same legal rights to the child as his or her spouse. Further, once an adoption is finalized, it cannot be undone. It is a huge responsibility to adopt a child and should not be taken lightly. Anyone seeking to adopt his or her stepchildren should be sure to consult with a family law attorney who has experience with adoptions.
In Georgia, a petition for stepparent adoption can be filed in the county where the child resides. Of course, the consent of the spouse (i.e. the child’s father or mother) of the adoptive parent is required. If the child is age 14 or older, he or she must also give her consent to the adoption.
The first step in a proceeding for stepparent adoption (or any adoption for that matter) is to terminate the parental rights of the biological parent who is no longer present in the child’s life. Of course, if the biological mother or father is deceased, this is not necessary. The termination of the rights of the biological mother or father of the child is frequently done by consent. The parent must voluntarily, in writing, surrender all of his or her rights to the child, to the step-parent for the explicit purpose of enabling the stepparent to adopt the child. If that happens, the process is a fairly straight-forward, albeit paperwork intensive, process. The adoptive parent will have to submit to a criminal background check. A home study may be ordered (though this is not commonly done as the child is already living in the home of the adoptive parent). The adoptive parent will have to gather information and records concerning the medical history and familial background of the child sought to be adopted. Once the file is completed, the Court will grant the adoption once it is proven that the adoption is in the best interests of the child. It is critical for the stepparent to have knowledgeable representation to navigate all of the steps to ensure the adoption is completed and granted without any problems.
A stepparent adoption becomes more complicated when the biological mother or father of the child sought to be adopted does not willingly consent to the termination of his or her parental rights and contests the stepparent adoption. Georgia holds sacred the rights of biological parents and it is only after several statutory grounds for termination of parental rights without consent are met, that the Court will grant the adoption. As always, the Court must find that the adoption is in the child’s best interest. In this situation, it’s even more important to have an attorney on your side that is well versed in contested stepparent adoptions.
The attorneys at Bivek Brubaker & Prescott LLC have experience in all types of stepparent adoptions and would love the opportunity to discuss your family situation with you. Call us today!