Bringing a child into your family through adoption can be one of life’s most rewarding and overwhelming experiences. You want to be certain you are emotionally and financially prepared to assume the responsibility of caring for another person.

If you are considering adopting, you should let a qualified family attorney help you understand the legal requirements and the procedures you will have to follow to complete the adoption process. A Cumming adoption lawyer can assist you with every aspect of adopting a child, from the initial decision, to the final hearing.

Types of Adoptions

There are several ways a person or couple can expand their family through adoption, including:

  • Stepparent adoptions – a stepparent assumes responsibility for their stepchild when the biological parent has forfeited their parental rights;
  • Private agency or public adoptions – a licensed private agency or the State of Georgia places a child with an adoptive family;
  • Relative adoptions – a relative of the child, such as a sibling, aunt, uncle, or grandparents, adopts the child;
  • Third-party adoptions – someone other than a stepparent or relative, such as a foster parent or other caregiver, adopts the child;
  • Foreign decree adoptions – the child has already been adopted in another country, but the adoption must be legalized in the US; and
  • Adult adoptions – the person to be adopted is over the age of 18.

With so many options available, it is advisable to ask a Cumming attorney to explain the practical and legal requirements for each type of adoption before initiating the process.

The Adoption Process

While there may be some variations depending on the type of adoption that parents decide to pursue, the general process is the same in every circumstance.

Inquiry

For a public agency adoption, prospective parents can contact the Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) or complete a Home for Georgia’s Kids inquiry form. If parents want a private agency adoption, they need to select an agency. An attorney in Cumming can recommend reputable adoption agencies in the area.

Pre-Service Training

Prospective parents must participate in the DFCS Adoption Preparation Program or a comparable program offered by a private, licensed adoption agency. The DFCS program includes 23 hours of classroom training to help prepare adoptive families for their new addition.

Family Evaluation

After completing the adoption preparation program, a Family Evaluation will be conducted. This evaluation may include visiting the home, interviewing the prospective parents and siblings, reviewing medical and financial records, and conducting criminal background checks.

Placement

If the prospective adoptive family, DFCS, or the private adoption agency identifies a potential adoptee, a pre-placement visit may be scheduled. If the family and the child or adult to be adopted appear to be a good match, the parents will sign a Placement Agreement indicating their commitment to adopt. The adoptee may then be placed in the new parents’ home pending a final hearing.

Finalizing the Adoption

Upon receiving a release from DFCS or confirmation from the private agency that the adoption may proceed, a Cumming attorney for the adoptive parents will file a petition. If the adoptee is over the age of 14, the petition must include a signed form from the adoptee confirming their consent. A Superior Court judge will then conduct a hearing and sign a final decree of adoption.

Terminating Parental Rights

A child may only be adopted if the biological parents have given up their parental rights. Official Code of Georgia Annotated §19-8-4 permits biological parents to surrender their rights to the State’s DHS or a licensed child placement agency. The law allows parents to revoke this surrender for up to four days, possibly putting the adoption process at risk until the surrender becomes final.

If biological parents do not voluntarily give up their parental rights, a court may involuntarily terminate those rights in extreme cases where there is evidence of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a child. If the parental rights are terminated, DHS becomes the child’s legal guardian, and prospective adoptive parents can work with that agency to adopt the child. A knowledgeable adoption attorney in Cumming can work with DHS and represent prospective adoptive parents in the termination proceeding.

Contact a Cumming Adoption Attorney at Our Firm

Regardless of the potential adoptee’s age or relationship to you, you must still prove that you are qualified to adopt. Our firm’s dedicated attorneys can advise you on how to satisfy all the local adoption requirements, guide you through the Family Evaluation, and represent you at all court proceedings. Work with a Cumming adoption lawyer to ensure that the process proceeds as smoothly as possible so you and your new family member can begin your lives together. Call today to get started.

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