As we celebrate “love” this month, we should not forget about the many children who are going into or are already in the foster care system. These children long to experience the love that comes from living with a permanent family through adoption. On the other side adopting a child or children is one of the most rewarding – and challenging – experiences. Therefore, careful consideration should be taken into account with a decision to pursue adoption.
Some adoptions come from being foster parents first, and some start with adoption. No matter how the process starts, expectant parents need to understand that adoption usually is a lengthy legal process. Many adoptive parents have referred to this process as “paper pregnant” because it can be just as emotional, complicated, uncomfortable, and expensive as a biological pregnancy.
The Adoption Legal Framework
Once you step into the world of adoption, you will need a solid understanding of how things work, locally, nationally, and internationally, depending on where you adopt.
Federal laws provide overarching standards with which State adoption laws must comply. New Federal legislation obligates States to enact new laws. In some cases of intercountry adoption, international treaty requirements regulate adoption as a result of the United States becoming a party to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (Hague Convention). This international treaty implements safeguards for all parties in adoptions involving countries that have joined the Covenant.
The sheer number and complexity of adoption laws mean that, if you are going to adopt, you should consult an adoption attorney or make sure that the adoption agency you work with can provide an attorney.
Who Is Eligible to Adopt?
In Georgia, the State law determines a person’s eligibility to adopt a child. According to the Georgia statute:
- Any adult person, including a foster parent, may adopt a child when he or she meets all of the following criteria:
- Is at least 25 years old or married and living with his or her spouse
- Is at least ten years older than the child
- Has been a State resident at least 6 months
- Is financially, physically, and mentally able to have permanent custody of the child
- Married persons must file a joint petition. The petition shall be filed by the stepparent alone if the child to be adopted is the stepchild of the party seeking to adopt.
Who May Place a Child for Adoption?
In general, any person or entity who has the right to make decisions about a child’s care and custody may place that child for adoption. Such persons include the birth parents or the child’s legal guardian or guardian ad litem. Legal entities include State departments of social services or licensed child-placing agencies. All States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands specifically designate the persons or entities that hold the authority to make adoptive placements.
Obviously, adopting a child is not only a life-changing experience but also an exercise in working through the legal system.
If you would like to find out more information about the adoption process then please contact Miller & Wynn. Our locally-based attorneys, Mike Miller and Christopher L. Wynn have decades of experience. Contact them for a free consultation at 770-942-2720 or visit www.MillerWynnLaw.com.