We get calls every week from clients in Georgia who are interested in all types of adoptions. Some clients want their current spouse to adopt a child from a former relationship. Other clients want to adopt a child from an agency, a family member or a birth mother they happen to know. There are certain rules and requirements that apply to all adoptions filed in the State of Georgia. Here are some important things to know if you are considering filing an adoption in the State of Georgia:
1. How Old Do I Have to Be to File an Adoption?: If you are unmarried and living in the State of Georgia, you must be at least 25-years-old to file an adoption. In addition to being at least 25-years-old, you must also be at least ten (10) years older than the child being adopted. So, if you are 25-years-old and want to adopt a child who is 16, Georgia law would not allow the adoption because the age difference is only 9 years. The 10-year difference in ages rarely comes into play unless an older sibling is attempting to adopt a younger sibling.
2. What Are the Residency Requirements For Filing an Adoption?: You must be a citizen and resident of the State of Georgia for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the adoption petition.
3. How Can I Terminate the Other Parent’s Rights?: The termination of a parent’s rights can be uncontested or contested. A parent can voluntarily sign a termination of rights and the appropriate waivers. If the termination is not revoked within ten (10) days of signing it, the parent’s rights are permanently terminated. If the parent involved does not want to sign a rights termination, his or her rights can be forcibly terminated if the parent has had no meaningful contact with the child for a period of twelve (12) months. Meaningful contact is generally defined as no visitation with the child in question AND no payment of child support for a period of twelve (12) months.
4. How Long Do I Have to Be Married For a Step-Parent Adoption?: Georgia has no requirement with regard to length of marriage in a step-parent adoption. This is a big difference from the State of Alabama. In Alabama, the adopting step-parent must have lived with the minor child for twelve (12) months prior to the filing of the adoption. Georgia has no such requirement.
5. Can I Terminate My Parental Rights or Someone Else’s Parental Rights Without an Adoption?: In short, no. A parent cannot avoid paying child support by simply terminating his or her parental rights. Likewise, if you are tired of dealing with an ex who isn’t paying support regularly or visiting regularly, you cannot simply terminate their rights without having someone to take on those obligations. Obviously, various social services organizations can terminate a parent’s rights without conducting an adoption. Thousands of children in foster care are placed there after a parent’s rights are terminated. But, between private litigants, the only way to terminate an individual’s rights is by filing an adoption and meeting the criteria set forth in Question 3 above.