The most common form of adoption is that of children by stepparents. In these situations the adopting stepparent assumes financial and legal responsibility for his/her spouse’s child or children and releases the noncustodial parent of parental responsibilities, including child support.
This factsheet discusses legal issues in stepparent adoptions and how to proceed.
State laws on stepparent adoptions vary. Most States have a streamlined process for adoptions by stepparents whereby the judge hearing the adoption petition has the ability to dispense with the requirement in State laws for an adoption home study. Some States, however, will not approve a stepparent adoption unless the custodial parent has been married to the stepparent for 1 year or longer.
When a stepparent wishes to adopt a stepchild, the child’s parents (the stepparent’s spouse and the noncustodial or absent parent) are usually both required to consent to that adoption. In consenting to an adoption, the noncustodial parent relinquishes all parental rights and responsibilities, including child support. If the noncustodial parent objects to the proposed adoption and refuses to consent to it, State laws may prevent the adoption from proceeding.
Some State adoption laws specify special circumstances under which the noncustodial parent’s consent is not required. Other States have made special provisions in their adoption laws to allow stepparent adoptions to occur, even over the objections of the noncustodial parent, in cases where the noncustodial parent has failed to maintain communication with the child for a specified period of time.
WHO ARE "SPECIAL NEEDS" CHILDREN?
A child is considered to be "Special Needs" if he or she is in one of the following categories:
1. The child is of black heritage and 1 year or older;
2. The child is 8 years old or older and of any other ethnicity;
3. Any child with documented, physical, emotional or mental problems or limitations;
4. The child is one of a group of 2 siblings and at least one of the children meets the requirements of 1, 2 or 3 above; or
5. The child to be adopted is one of a group of 3 or more siblings (brothers and sisters) to be placed together.
IS THERE ANY TYPE OF ASSISTANCE FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS?
Yes. Adoption assistance may be available for "special needs children" under certain circumstances. This assistance is provided through the local Department of Family & Children Services.
WHAT TYPE OF ASSISTANCE IS AVAILABLE?
There are four types of assistance:
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 who 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.