How to File for Adoption in Georgia
The Georgia Adoption Code is found at O.CG.A. § 19-8-1 through 19-8-26. Since adoption was created by statute, the adoption statutes must be strictly construed in favor of the natural parents.” Johnson v. Eidson, 235 Ga. 820, 221 S.E.2d 813 (1976). Georgia recognizes four distinct types of adoption proceedings as follows:
1. Agency adoptions, O.C.G.A. § 19-8-4;
2. Independent or private adoptions, O.C.G.A. § 19-8-5;
3. Step-parent adoptions, O.C.G.A. § 19-8-6;
4. Relative adoptions, O.C.G.A. § 19-8-7. NOTE: a “relative” for purposes of filing an adoption petition and for purposes of applying for adoption assistance are different.
The superior courts of the several counties shall have exclusive jurisdiction in all matters of adoption, except such jurisdiction as may be granted to the juvenile courts. O.C.G.A. § 19-8-2 (a)(1990). All petitions for adoption shall be filed in the county in which any petitioner resides, except that upon good cause being shown, the court of the county of the child’s domicile or of the county in which is located any child-placing agency having legal custody of the child sought to be adopted may, in its discretion, allow the petition to be filed in that court. O.C.G.A.
§ 19-8-2 (b)(1).
Who May File Petition for Adoption?
Any adult person may petition to adopt a child if the person:
(1) Is at least 25 years of age or is married and living with his spouse;
(2) Is at least ten years older than the child;
(3) Has been a bona fide resident of Georgia for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition; and
(4) Is financially, physically, and mentally able to have permanent custody of the child.
Furthermore, “[i]f a person seeking to adopt a child is married, the petition must be filed in the name of both spouses; provided, however, that, when the child is the stepchild of the party seeking to adopt, the petition shall be filed by the stepparent alone.” O.C.G.A. § 19-8-3 (c).
Is there Financial Assistance Available for Adoption?
There are 2 types of financial assistance available: Non-recurring adoption assistance and Recurring adoption assistance.
Non-recurring adoption assistance: Adopting parents can be reimbursed up to $1500 for reasonable and necessary adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and other expenses directly related to the adoption of the child. Adopting parents cannot be reimbursed for any expenses associated with obtaining a court termination or voluntary surrender of parental rights of the birth parents.
Recurring adoption assistance: Adoption Assistance is a monthly cash benefit for relatives who qualify and who adopt children with special needs. A special needs child is any child who has been in the care of a public or private agency or individual other than the legal or biological parent for more than 24 consecutive months; (b) a child who is a member of a sibling group of two or more placed in the same home; or (c) a child with a physical, mental or emotional disability, as validated by a licensed physician or psychologist. The state must also determine that the child cannot be adopted without the assistance.
Who is eligible to receive reimbursement for non-recurring adoption expenses?
The child must be “special needs,” which means (a) a child who has been in the care of a public or private agency or individual other than the legal or biological parent for more than 24 consecutive months; (b) a child who is a member of a sibling group of two or more placed in the same home; or (c) a child with a physical, mental or emotional disability, as validated by a licensed physician or psychologist. The state must also determine that the child cannot be adopted without the assistance.
When do I apply?
You must apply after your petition for adoption has been filed in the Superior Court but before you have your final hearing on the adoption.
Where do I apply?
You start by making a phone call to the contact person in your county at the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). Tell her that you want to apply for special needs adoption assistance because you are adopting your grandchild, niece, nephew, etc. DFCS must allow you to apply. You and the caseworker will then draw up an adoption assistance agreement, which will include the monthly payments you may receive for the child and how long you will receive them. This agreement must be signed before you have the final hearing on the adoption.
Contact the Douglas Law Group, LLC to assist in Petitioning the Court for Adoption. Go to our Resources page to Download Adoption Checklists and to get answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Adoptions in Georgia.