Stepparent adoption is the most common form of adoption. When a stepparent adopts a child, he assumes financial and legal responsibility for his spouse's child. The noncustodial parent no longer has any responsibilities, including responsibility for paying child support, according to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
Who Can Adopt
You must be a resident of Georgia for at least six months before you can adopt in the state. In addition, you must be at least 10 years older than the child and have the money, health and mental ability to care for her. You have to be at least 25 years old, unless you're married and living with your spouse. Unlike some other states, Georgia does not require you to be married for any specific length of time before you adopt a stepchild, according to Georgia DHS Adoption Services.
In most cases, both biological parents must agree to the adoption before you can adopt a stepchild. However, sometimes the court will terminate the legal parent's rights. This can be done if the adoption is in the child's best interest and a biological parent has abandoned the child or can't be found after a careful search. It can also be done if the parent is insane or physically unable to care for the child or in some other way unable to be a proper parent. In a stepparent adoption, the court may also take away a biological parent's rights if he has failed to communicate or hasn't tried to communicate with the child in a meaningful way for at least a year before the adoption, or if he's failed to provide for the support of the child, according to the Cynthia Patton law firm. In addition to having parental consent, you must also have the consent of the child if she is 14 or older. The child has to agree in writing, and she usually has to give her consent in front of the judge.
You file a Petition for Adoption in the Superior Court for the county where you live. A home inspection may or may not be necessary in the case of a stepchild adoption. The judge will decide that question. The purpose of a home inspection is to make sure that everything you stated in the petition is correct.
Denial of Adoption
The court can deny an adoption if it decides it's not in the best interest of the child or if the legal parents haven't agreed to the adoption. The court might also decide there's no good reason to terminate the biological parents' rights. If this happens, the child could remain in the stepparent's custody, or the Department of Human Resources might take custody of the child and bring a case in Juvenile Court to see if the child should be removed from the stepparent. This is called a deprivation action, according to the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.
Although many people qualify for a tax credit when they adopt, a stepparent doesn't get one for adopting his stepchild. Other laws might apply to your adoption. For instance, if your stepchild has any Native American heritage, the Indian Child Welfare Act may affect him. If your stepchild's biological parent is on active duty with the military at the time of the adoption, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act might apply.
- Atlanta Legal Aid Society: Adopting A Child: Answers to Common Questions
- Georgia DHR Adoption Services (via phone)
- The Law Firm of Cynthia Patton: Georgia Adoption
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