For people who are looking to make an addition to their families, Fulton County Superior Courts have the ability to grant adoptions. Adoption can give a child a brighter future and allows people to grow their families.
However, adopting a child involves a complicated legal process. Prospective parents need to prepare their own lives for this massive change and prove to the courts that they are fit to care for a child. Additionally, they need to prove that the biological parents of the child have either lost or surrendered their rights.
An Atlanta adoption lawyer can help you adopt a child and ensure that all of the relevant procedural rules are met. A family law attorney from our team can help determine the legal status of the child and assist you in meeting the qualifications associated with adopting a child.
While any adult over the age of 25 may begin the process to adopt a child, they must still follow the strict procedures and educational processes to convince the State that they can provide a healthy and stable home for the child. According to the Official Code of Georgia Annotated §19-8-3, married couples of any age may also seek the court’s approval to adopt a child.
Regardless of whether the adopting party is an individual or a married couple, they must be financially, physically, and mentally fit to care for a child. To prove this, prospective parents must complete the IMPACT FCP program and make the necessary preparation to bring a child into their home. The State will also require the adopting parents to submit to an interview to explore their reasons for wanting to add a child to their family.
All of this comprises a thorough investigation into the ability of the parents to provide a safe and nurturing home. An experienced lawyer in Atlanta can help prospective parents satisfy the State’s legal adoption requirements.
Once potential parents establish that they are able to properly raise a child, they must then finalize the legal process by filing an adoption petition in an Atlanta family court. This document would identify the potential parents as well as the child and must include the child’s signed consent form if they are over the age of 14.
However, a child may only be the subject of an adoption if one or both of their biological parents have either lost or surrendered their rights over the child. According to O.C.G.A. §19-8-4, parents may surrender their rights to the DHS, a licensed child-placement agency, or an equivalent thereof in another state. While surrendering parent rights would be permanent, O.C.G.A. §19-8-9 gives parents up to four days to rescind the surrender.
The other way to adopt a child is to prove an involuntary termination of parental rights. Family courts may take this extreme step in cases of domestic violence, chronic and unrehabilitated drug abuse, or abandonment. In these cases, the child would be in the custody of DHS, and potential adopters can submit proof of this termination as evidence of the child’s eligibility for adoption. An Atlanta adoption attorney can work with DHS to investigate a child’s legal status.
The biggest risk associated with adoption in Atlanta is when both biological parents sign to surrender their parental rights. After a child a born, their biological mother signs a surrender saying that she is placing the child for adoption. There is a subsequent four-day revocation period after a child is placed for adoption where a birthparent can change their mind.
Some agencies require the baby to go into cradle care or “kangaroo care” from when the surrender of parental rights is signed until that revocation period is over. Sometimes, they will have the baby stay with a foster parent. That way, you’re not bonding with the child who you may end up returning. However, most agencies place the child with the adoptive parents right away.
It is therefore a real and true risk that you could have a baby at home for only four days and be bonding with that child before receiving a phone call saying that the birthmother changed her mind and that you need to drop the baby off in the morning. Once those four days pass, it’s very hard for the birthparent to legally change their mind. At that point, an adopted child could only be returned on grounds of duress, fraud, incapacity, or something really bad to make that surrender invalid.
One of the most important things to look into when researching adoption agencies is what happens if adoption fails, because the real risk is between the time that the birthmother signs the surrender and the following four days. In the event that a biological parent revokes the placement of their child for adoption, most agencies will roll over the funds that they spent to another adoption so they don’t lose all that money.
Regardless of a person’s reason to adopt, they must still prove that they are both legally and practically able to properly care for a child. Working with an Atlanta adoption lawyer can help you navigate this process.
Let one of our team members help investigate the legal status of a child and determine the extent of any remaining biological parents’ rights. We can advise you on how to satisfy the State’s requirements for educational prerequisites and home preparations. Call our intake team today to get started.