Stepparents who take the place of an absent or deceased parent often want to "make it official" and adopt your stepchild.
In order to adopt a child in Georgia, the law requires that you have been a resident of Georgia for at least six months, that you are at least 25 years of age, that you are at least 10 years older than the stepchild, and that you have the physical, financial, and mental capabilities to take care of the child adequately.
If you meet the minimum qualifications to adopt a child, the first step on the road to stepparent adoption in Georgia begins with getting written consent from the other birth parent. The birth parent will need to terminate his or her relationship with the child although the parties can agree that the birth parent continues to have the right to visit the child after adoption. After the adoption is complete, the stepparent will take the place of the birth parent as the child's parent and the birth parent will no longer be able to participate in making decisions concerning the child.
There are limited circumstances where the courts will allow a stepparent adoption without consent, such as a missing or incapacitated birth parent.
In Georgia, stepparents have to complete extensive criminal background checks and submit to a home study conducted by an adoption coordinator for the county in which the child will reside. The adoption coordinator will confirm that your home is appropriate to meet the needs of the child. The prospective stepparent will also need to provide financial and medical records to the adoption coordinator whose job it is to determine the best interests of the child.
After you have completed the background checks and the adoption coordinator has submitted the home study, the Court will review the adoption application and supporting documents and, provided everything is in order, will schedule the adoption.
The paperwork involved in a stepparent adoption is extensive and can be overwhelming at times. An experienced adoption attorney is vital to getting you through the process while keeping your sanity in tact.
Adoption hearings are the fun part of an adoption and are easily the most enjoyable hearing that a Judge can conduct and when you are guaranteed to see a smiling Judge. It is not uncommon for a Judge to invite the parties into his or her Chambers where you can enjoy a personalized meet and greet with the Judge and where photos can be taken.
After the hearing, the clerk will submit the adoption order to the Georgia Department of Vital Records and will issue a new birth certificate for the child.
Even where everything is agreed upon in advance, adoptions can be tricky. It is is a good idea to retain a qualified attorney who can make sure that your paper work is accurate and complete. There are lots of nuances to the adoption process and an experienced adoption attorney can help streamline the process and prepare for the celebration of your new relationship with your stepchild.