The bond between a child and their step-parent or relative could be just as strong or stronger than their bond with their biological parents. To reflect this, Georgia has a process for step-parent and relative adoptions that helps formalize your relationship under the law.
Adopting a stepchild or related child gives both you and the child certain financial privileges and legal protections that you otherwise wouldn’t enjoy. This can provide a priceless feeling of security and peace to both you and your adopted child, as well as:
- Give the adoptive parent financial and legal responsibility over the child
- Bestow the adoptive parent with the right to make significant decisions about the child’s life, such as medical care, religious upbringing, and education
- Allow the adopted child to inherit their adoptive parents’ estate automatically
- Grant additional benefits related to insurance or taxes
Whether the child’s biological parents are in the picture or not, a Georgia family lawyer can help you navigate the deeply personal process of adopting a child who’s near and dear to you.
At Cheeley Legal, we help step-parents and relatives adopt the children that they care for and love, making their role as guardians official according to the law. Contact us or call 770-831-7910 to talk to a Gwinnett County adoption lawyer today.
How Do You Adopt Your Stepchild or Relative in Georgia?
Adoptions can be very complicated, and the law changes often. To adopt a child as a relative or step-parent in Georgia, you must be at least 21 years old or married and living with your spouse and a resident of the state, unless the adoption is an interstate adoption (Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children, or “ICPC”). A law passed in 2018 removed the state’s 6-month residency requirement that was previously in place. In addition to these requirements:
- To adopt your stepchild in Georgia, you must be married or have been married to the parent of the child. Fortunately, there’s no waiting period after marriage when it comes to adopting your step-child – you can start the process immediately after you marry their parent.
- To adopt a child related to you in Georgia, you must be that child’s grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt or uncle, great-aunt or great-uncle, or sibling. Any other relative by birth or marriage, such as cousins, must go through a different adoption process. You must also show state authorities that you’re able to care for the child.
If you’re a step-parent or relative, you no longer have to be more than 10 years older than the child to adopt them under Georgia law. This requirement was dropped in 2018.
Generally, before you can adopt a step-child or relative as your child, you must show that the biological parents’ rights have either been surrendered or terminated. A surrender of parental rights can be revoked no more than 4 days after it’s been signed.
How Long Does Georgia Step-Parent or Relative Adoption Take?
A Georgia step-parent or relative adoption doesn’t take as long as other types of adoption. As a step-parent, you can technically begin the adoption process as soon as you’re married to the child’s parent. As a relative, you can begin the adoption process at any time.
A step-parent or relative adoption in Georgia generally takes about 3 months to finalize. Sometimes, the process may take as short as 30 to 45 days.
What Will Disqualify You From Adopting a Child in Georgia?
While step-parent and relative adoptions tend to be simpler than other types of adoptions, they can still come with complications. These “kinship” adoptions sometimes require a pre-placement review or home study before the adoption goes through. However, your lawyer can petition the court for a simple investigation that’s less involved.
You may be disqualified from adopting a step-child or related child if you cannot show Georgia courts that you can provide appropriate care for the child. If you have a history of addiction, substance abuse, mental health issues, or incarceration, or a criminal record, that may affect your application.
The best approach is to address these potential issues directly and show the court proof as to why you’re capable of caring for the child now. An experienced family lawyer can help you put together the strongest case possible for your best chance at success.
Can You Adopt a Child Without the Biological Parent’s Consent in Georgia?
Whether you’re waiting on consent from the birth father or birth mother, you must get a surrender or termination of parental rights under Georgia law.
In some cases, this is not a problem because the birth parents are on the same page as the adoptive parents. But in other cases, birth parents may be unknown, unsupportive, uninvolved, or even opposed to the process, despite the best interests of the child.
If you cannot get a voluntary surrender from a biological parent, you may be able to get a termination of parental rights by a court order. Whatever it takes, Georgia family attorney Joseph Cheeley and his team are here to help. Contact us or call 770-831-7910 now.