In Georgia, blended families are becoming more and more prevalent. As a result, many Georgia couples wonder: “May I adopt my step children? If so, how?” These couples will be glad to know that in Georgia, one spouse may indeed adopt the child of his or her spouse. This process is commonly referred to as step parent adoption.
There are two different circumstances under which a child may be adopted by his or her step parent, and the process that the adopting parent must undergo differs according to these circumstances. If the child’s other biological parent is no longer living, the child may be adopted by the spouse of his or her living parent only if that parent consents in writing to the adoption. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(a)(2). For example, if the step father wishes to adopt his step child, and the child’s biological father is no longer living, the step father may adopt the child if the mother (the step father’s wife) gives consent.
However, in cases where both of the child’s biological parents are still living, the requirements for step parent adoption are different. If both of the child’s biological parents are still living, but they are not married to each other, the child may be adopted by his or her step parent only if the other parent voluntarily surrenders his or her parental rights in writing and the other parent consents in writing to the adoption. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(a)(1). An example of this situation would be as follows: If a step mother wishes to adopt her step child, and the child’s biological mother is still living, the biological mother must voluntarily surrender her parental rights in writing, and the child’s father (the step mother’s husband) must give consent. If the biological parent refuses to surrender his or her parental rights, the court presiding over the matter will hold a hearing to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of the child.
One additional requirement that applies to either situation is that if the child involved is fourteen years old or over, that child must also consent to the adoption in writing. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(b).
If you are a step parent, and you wish to adopt your step child, it will be necessary for you to file a Petition for Stepparent Adoption in order to begin the process. In order to ensure that your petition is effective, and that you are ultimately successful, we advise you to seek the help of an experienced Georgia family law attorney.
By A. Latrese Martin, Associate Attorney, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC