What is adoption?
Adoption is the legal process where one or two people become the parent(s) of a child and take the child to be their own. Adoption is necessary to become a parent if you are not a child’s birth parent. A person can be adopted at any age, even into adulthood. In the case of a child, Superior Court judges decide whether an adoption can be completed, based on whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
Once the adoption is approved, the adopted child has all the same rights as if the child had been born to the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents have all the rights and responsibilities of the biological parents. The rights and duties of the biological parents end. There are no visitation rights for biological parents unless the adoptive parents allow it.
In general, an adopted child will not inherit from the biological parents unless the child is named in a will. However this is not true if a child is adopted by a stepmother or stepfather. In this case, the adopted child can still inherit from the biological parent who is married to the adoptive parent.
There are six types of adoption in Georgia:
Public or private agency adoptions: The State or a private agency places the child with the adoptive parents.
Adoptions by third parties: Someone who is not a stepparent or a relative adopts the child. These adoptions do not involve an agency.
Stepparent adoptions: A stepparent adopts the child.
Adoptions by relatives: The child may be related to the person adopting the child either by blood or by marriage. (Ex. grandparent, great grandparent, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle, sister, or brother)
Adoptions by foreign decree: The child has already been adopted in another country. The child must have a valid visa.
Adult adoptions: The person being adopted is over 18.
Back to top
What are my rights if I want to adopt a child?
To adopt a child, you must meet the following conditions:
You must be a resident of Georgia when you file the petition.
You must be at least 10 years older than the child, unless you are a stepparent adopting your stepchild.
You must be at least 25 years old, unless you are married and living with your spouse. Or, you must be a relative of the child and be at least 21 years old.
If you are married, you must adopt with your spouse, unless you are the child's stepparent.
You must have the money, health, and mental ability to take care of the child.
Do I have to give the biological parents anything in exchange for the adoption?
No. It is illegal for the people adopting the child to pay the biological parents for the adoption. This includes payment with money or anything else valuable. Adoption agencies may help the biological parents, but there are strict rules.
In third party adoptions, the person who wants to adopt must file a report with the court. The report must list anything valuable that they have given to anyone in connection with the adoption.
When the mother has given up her parental rights, she must also fill out a mother's affidavit. On this form, the mother must state if anyone has given or promised her anything valuable in connection with the adoption.
Do children have rights in an adoption?
The child must agree to the adoption if he or she is 14 years old or older. The child must agree in writing. At the final hearing, you must show the judge that the child agreed. Usually, the child has to give his or her consent in front of the judge. At 21, a person can be adopted with his or her own consent alone.
If parents are dead or have had their parental rights terminated by the court, their children can be adopted. In this case, whoever had custody of the child would have to give consent.
Back to top
What are the rights of parents when someone wants to adopt their child?
If the biological parents of the child are living and they have not abandoned the child, their consent must be obtained. Biological parents consent by completing a form titled "Surrender of Parental Rights: Final Release for Adoption". After the parents sign the form, they have a grace period of 4 days to change their mind. This gives parents time to think through such a serious decision.
But in some cases, the judge can take away the parents' rights if it is in the best interest of the child. Some common examples of when this may occur include:
When the child has been abandoned
When the parent has been declared mentally unfit
When the parent has failed to support the child in a meaningful way
Do fathers of children born out of wedlock have rights in an adoption?
If the father has established parental rights to the child, then he has the same rights as the biological mother. A father can establish legal parental rights whether he is married to the mother or not.
If a biological father has not established parental rights, he still has some rights in an adoption. The father must be told that his parental rights will be taken away if he does not file a petition to legitimate the child. The lawyer working on the adoption must give this information to the father.
Georgia adoption laws specify how the biological father has a right to object to the adoption. He has a right to ask the court for custody of the child if:
If he has not done either, the father can explain his reasons why before the adoption can happen. A biological father must have the opportunity to care for and know his child.
If the father has abandoned his child, he might lose his parental rights. Legal abandonment occurs when a parent fails to pay child support, communicate with the child, or visit with the child for over a year.
Do the biological parents have rights to their child after the adoption?
Once the adoption is approved, the rights and duties of the biological parents end. Recently, more adoptions have become open. This means that the biological and the adoptive parents know who each other are. Depending on the degree of openness, the biological parents may communicate with or even visit with the child. But even in an open adoption, the biological parents have no legal rights to visitation. They also cannot ask the court to enforce visitation.
When stepparents adopt a child, the biological parent married to the stepparent keeps full parental rights to their child after the adoption. The other biological parent will have had their rights terminated in the stepparent adoption.
Back to top