A stepparent choosing to adopt a child from his or her spouse’s former marriage is the most common form of adoption in the United States. By adopting, the stepparent becomes fully responsible for the child, freeing the child’s non-custodial parent from all rights and responsibilities, including alimony or child support. The process for adopting a stepchild is simpler than that of adopting a child you have no prior connection to.
Visit the Superior Court in your county to obtain the proper paperwork and learn the current filing fees. Make sure you meet any prerequisites for stepparent adoption. You have to be legally married to the child’s custodial parent, and in most cases you will have had to be a Georgia resident for at least six months prior to filing.
Contact the child’s non-custodial parent to obtain consent for the adoption. If his or her whereabouts are unknown, send a letter to the last known address asking that they send back an agreement in writing to give up their rights as a parent.
Ask the judge to declare abandonment if the non-custodial parent cannot be found and has not made an attempt to contact the child for at least a year. The court will take the abandonment as implied consent. Additionally, if the non-custodial parent has failed to pay court-ordered child support, the court will use this as grounds to terminate his or her parental rights.
File the adoption paperwork with the court, along with a copy of the child’s birth certificate and a marriage license showing that the stepparent and custodial parent are legally married. If written consent from the absent parent has not been obtained, you may be required to run an ad in your local paper notifying them that you have moved forward with the adoption process.
Attend the court hearing on the date set by the judge. The custodial parent, stepparent and child should all be present. If the child is over 14, he or she will have to indicate to the judge that they consent to being adopted by the stepparent.
Attend the final hearing on the date scheduled by the court. On this date, you will receive paperwork legally certifying the adoption and giving the stepparent full rights as a guardian. Give copies of this paperwork to your child’s doctor and school and send one to the vital statistics office in your county to acquire a new birth certificate for your child.
If the child's non-custodial parent contests the adoption, the court may deny the adoption unless it can be shown that the adoption is in the child's best interests.
Home visits by a state worker are not typically required in stepparent adoption cases but the judge may order one if he or she has concerns about the child's home life or if the adoption is being contested.
While it is legal in the state of Georgia to self-represent when filing for adoption, an experienced attorney can help navigate complicated paperwork and court procedures.