Georgia Family Law’s principal attorney, Cobb County adoption attorney Steve Worrall, is an adoptive father and he is passionate about helping bring new families together through the process of adoption. We know that families starting the adoption process in Georgia have lots of questions. Here are some answers to many of those frequently asked questions about the adoption process:
What should I do if I want to adopt a child or give up my child for adoption?
Contact a lawyer. Adoption law is complex. It is best to find a lawyer who can help you.
What are the types of adoptions?
There are six types of adoption in Georgia:
(1) Public or private agency adoptions: The State or a private agency places the child with the adoptive parents.
(2) Adoptions by third parties: Someone who is not a stepparent or a relative adopts the child. These adoptions do not involve an agency.
(3) Stepparent adoptions: A stepparent adopts the child.
(4) Adoptions by relatives: A grandparent, great-grandparent, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle or a sister or brother of the child adopts the child. The child may be related to the person adopting the child either by blood or by marriage.
(5) Adoptions by foreign decree: The child has already been adopted in another country. The child must have a valid visa.
(6) Adult adoptions: The person to be is adopted is over 18.
Where do you file a petition for adoption?
If you are adopting a child, file a Petition for Adoption in the Superior Court for the county where you live. You can also file the petition in the county where the child is living or where the agency is located, if you have a good reason.
Who may adopt?
To adopt a child, you must meet the following conditions:
(1) You must have lived in Georgia for at least 6 months before filing the petition;
(2) You must be at least 10 years older than the child;
(3) You must be at least 25 years old unless you are married and living with your spouse;
(4) If you are married, you must adopt with your spouse (unless you are the child’s stepparent); and
(5) You must have the money, health and mental ability to take care of the child.
Will someone come to look at my home if I adopt a child?
You must have a home investigation if:
- you are adopting a child through an agency (Agency Adoption) or
- if you are not related to the child you are adopting and you are not the step-parent (Third-Party Adoption).
The judge will send someone to your home to check to make sure everything you said in the Petition for Adoption is correct. They will also check to see if you or your spouse has a criminal history.
If you are the child’s stepparent or relative, the judge will decide whether to send anyone to your home. Adoptions by foreign decree or adult adoptions do not require home investigations.
Does the child have to agree to be adopted?
The child must agree to the adoption if he or she is 14 years old or older. The child must agree in writing. You have to show the judge at the final hearing that the child agreed. Usually, the child has to give his or her consent in front of the judge.
Do the parents have to agree to the adoption?
No. In some circumstances, the judge can take away the parents’ rights if it is in the best interest of the child.
Is it ok if the biological parents get money or anything else valuable because of the adoption?
No. It is illegal for the people adopting the child to pay the biological parents for the adoption. This includes payment with money or anything else valuable. Adoption agencies may help the biological parents, but there are strict rules about that.
When the mother has given up her parental rights, she must also fill out a Mother’s Affidavit. On this form, the mother must tell if anyone has given or promised her anything valuable in connection with the child that is up for adoption.
In third party adoptions, the person who wants to adopt must file a report with the court listing anything valuable that they have given to anyone in connection with the adoption.
Can the court deny an adoption?
Yes, the court always has the power to deny an adoption. This may happen if the court finds at least one of the following:
a) the adoption would not be in the child’s best interests; OR
b) the legal parents have not agreed to give up their rights; OR
c) there is not a good reason to take away the rights of the legal parents.
If this happens, who keeps the child?
It depends on the type of adoption. In a public or private agency adoption or a third party adoption, the court may place the child with a public or private agency.
In a stepparent or relative adoption, the child remains in the custody of the person who asked to adopt the child (if that person is able to take care of the child). The court may also place the child in the custody of the Department of Human Resources (DHR) for the purpose of determining whether the child should be taken away from the stepparent or relative. In this situation DHR brings a case in Juvenile Court. This is called a Deprivation Action.
Are adoption records private?
Yes. The public cannot look at adoption records.
A person trying to find out about his or her birth family, adopted siblings, or child placed for adoption may be able to look at the records in some situations. If you want this type of information, contact:
Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry
Families First/Office of Adoptions
2 Peachtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3142
In the Atlanta area: (404) 657-3555
Outside Atlanta: 1-888-328-0055
Does the law allow brothers and sisters to find each other?
Yes, the law allows this in some situations. To get this information, contact the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry.
Does the law allow biological parents to find information about their children who have been adopted?
Yes, the law allows this in certain circumstances. To get this information, contact the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry.
What is the Putative Father Registry?
The Putative Father Registry has information about any man who may be the biological father of a child. The Registry has the name, address, and Social Security number for two types of men:
(1) A man who says he is the father of a child in a signed writing;
(2) A man who registers to indicate the possibility that he is the father of the child.
A man who believes that he is or may be the biological father of a child can file that information with the Putative Father Registry. The Registry is maintained by Vital Records. Contact:
Registry, Vital Records
2600 Skyland Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30319-3640
If a biological father is on the Registry, a court may use it to require him to pay child support.
If you want to adopt a child, your attorney will search the registry to see if a biological father is registered for the child. After the search, your attorney will give a copy of the results to the court.
If a father is registered for the child, he must be told about the adoption. He also has to be told that his parental rights will be taken away if he does not file a petition to legitimate the child. The lawyer working on the adoption must give this information to the father.
Are there any special financial benefits for adopted children?
In limited circumstances, some adopted children will qualify for adoption assistance benefits. These benefits can help pay for the costs of the adoption or pay a monthly benefit to the child, which comes with Medicaid.
Also, if you are receiving Social Security Disability or Retirement benefits, you may be able to get a child’s benefit. Check with the Social Security Administration to find out.
Do I get special tax credits if I adopt a child?
Yes. The maximum tax credit was $12,150.00 in 2009. If you are the child’s stepparent you do not get this credit.
Most adopting parents may take the credit only for qualifying expenses. Qualifying expenses are adoption fees, court costs, lawyer fees, traveling costs, and other costs of the adoption process.
If you adopt a special needs child, you do not have to show that your costs are qualifying expenses. You can take the entire credit.
Are there any other laws that might apply to adoptions?
Yes. When children go to another state for adoption the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children applies.
When the children being adopted have Native American heritage, the Indian Child Welfare Act may apply.
If a child’s biological parents are on active duty with the military at the time of the adoption or at the time of the court case to end their rights, the Service members Civil Relief Act may apply.
SOURCE: Georgia Legal Aid