Although a stepparent can be a great friend and mentor, and greatly influence a child’s life, she does not have any legal rights regarding the child unless she officially adopts him. When a stepparent adopts a stepchild, she becomes the child’s legal parent and is granted the same rights that the child’s other legal parent holds. Adopting a stepchild in Georgia requires the stepparent to complete Georgia adoption legal forms and to attend a hearing at which the court determines whether the adoption is in the child’s best interest.
Determine if You Qualify for Stepparent Adoption in GA
A child cannot have more than two legal parents. If a child has two parents with parental rights, one of them must either consent to the stepparent adoption or have her parental rights terminated in order for the stepparent adoption in Georgia to occur. Consenting to the adoption means consenting to losing all parental rights regarding the child, including the right to parental time with her and the right to make legal decisions on the child’s behalf. To adopt a stepchild in Georgia, an adult must be:
- Financially, mentally and physically capable of providing for a child.
- At least 10 years older than the child.
- A Georgia resident for at least six months.
- Living with the child’s parent.
Read More: Divorce & Adoption
Seeking Consent or Terminating Parental Rights
If the child’s other parent cannot be located to be asked for consent, the court may require the stepparent and the biological parent in favor of the adoption to attempt to find her. They must prove that they have done their due diligence to locate the other parent, which could mean contacting all known relatives, sending Georgia adoption legal forms to all known addresses for the parent and even taking out a missing person ad in a newspaper.
If the parent can be located, but does not consent to the adoption, the court may determine whether terminating her parental rights in order for the adoption to occur is in the child’s best interest.
Typically, the court only terminates parental rights in extreme cases like child abandonment, child abuse and the parent’s ongoing substance abuse struggle. Additionally, if the child is 14 or older, she must consent to the adoption. Without this consent, adopting a stepchild in Georgia cannot happen.
Obtain Georgia Adoption Legal Forms
Once the other parent’s rights have been terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, the stepparent may file a petition to adopt his stepchild. Georgia adoption legal forms can be obtained from the courthouse of the municipality where the stepparent resides. The cost for obtaining these forms varies from municipality to municipality.
Stepparents can make the process of adopting a stepchild in Georgia easier by working with online services that handle all the paperwork related to stepparent adoption, but using one of these services makes the process more expensive.
Attend the Adoption Court Hearings
After a stepparent submits the petition to adopt her stepchild to the court, the court schedules a hearing. At this hearing, the court examines all the paperwork submitted to determine whether the petitioning stepparent meets the requirements for adopting a stepchild in Georgia and whether there are any outstanding issues preventing the adoption from being finalized.
If the court approves the adoption, another hearing will be scheduled. This is the hearing where the stepparent adoption is finalized, making the stepparent the child’s new legal parent. Following this hearing, the stepparent must submit documentation of the adoption to the child’s school, pediatrician and any other entities that should be aware of the change to the child’s parental status.