When people choose to expand their family through adoption, they are sometimes surprised by the complexity of the process. Some adoption methods are simpler than others, but potential adoptive parents must undergo a lengthy application process and home study in almost all cases.
A Forsyth County adoption lawyer can assist you through the process from beginning to end. Whether you seek to adopt a stepchild, plan to adopt through a private arrangement with a birth mother, or work with an agency, a capable family attorney can explain the law, ensure your documentation is complete, and support you through the inevitable ups and downs of the adoption process.
When you want to adopt in Georgia, you must be at least 21 unless you are married and living with your spouse. You must be at least ten years older than the child you plan to adopt unless the child is a stepchild or a family member like a sibling, niece, or nephew. Single people can adopt, but if a prospective adopter is married, both spouses must apply to adopt.
Georgia family law does not bar same-sex couples from adopting. However, some judges in the state are reluctant to approve adoptions to same-sex couples or second-parent adoptions, where one partner adopts the other’s child. A Forsyth County attorney can explain whether the local family court judges are sympathetic to same-sex adoption.
If you meet the legal requirements to adopt in the state, you could work through the Forsyth County office of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to adopt a child in the foster care system. You also could work through a private agency or try to locate a birth mother and arrange a private adoption.
Prospective adoptive parents must complete a home study and written application.
The application is thorough and asks many questions that could feel intrusive. It also requires extensive supporting documentation, including criminal background checks and detailed financial information. A Forsyth County attorney can review the adoption application and supporting documents for accuracy and completeness before you submit it.
The agency conducting the home study will visit your home and interview you, your spouse if you are married, and anyone else living with you, including children. The agency representative might make several visits, and one or more of them could be unannounced.
The representative will likely try to confirm answers on the written application and might question you about any information that could be a potential red flag. A legal representative can coach you on responding to uncomfortable questions.
Working with DFCS or a private agency allows you some information about the child’s biological family, but the information might be sparse. If you have an approved home study, you could connect directly with a birth mother willing to give up her child for adoption. Doing so allows you to meet the birth mother and obtain more information about the child’s genetic history.
The Official Code of Georgia § 19-8-24 allows you or the attorney representing you to advertise yourselves as prospective adoptive parents. If you meet a birth mother and mutually agree to adopt her child, you may pay her medical bills and some other expenses while she is pregnant. However, all payments to the birth mother must go through your attorney’s trust account—you cannot pay the birth mother directly.
The child’s parents must sign surrender documents. The father can surrender his rights before the child’s birth, but the mother cannot sign surrender documents until after the child is born. The law gives each parent four days after signing to change their mind and revoke the surrender.
Adoption is a beautiful but complex legal undertaking. It involves a lot of emotional ups and downs before the child becomes an official member of your family.
Working with an experienced Forsyth County adoption lawyer can ensure you are prepared and ease some of the uncertainty. Reach out today to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable team member.