Despite step-parents being recognized as key figures in the raising of their stepchildren by child psychologists and family mediation experts, a step-parent has virtually zero rights to their stepchild under Georgia law. Even a stepfather who has been caring for his stepdaughter for her entire life has no legal right to dictate how that child should be disciplined or educated. This, of course, is a cause of frustration for step-parents across the state of Georgia, and indeed the entire United States, and has been a catalyst in the vast majority of step-parent adoptions.
If you are seeking to adopt your stepchild under Georgia law, it is first necessary for you to obtain the consent of your stepchild’s legal guardian. This should not prove exceedingly difficult as the child’s primary physical custodian will be your spouse, meaning it is simply a matter of your husband or wife crafting an adequate letter consenting to your adoption of their child. If you bring your case to The Law Firm of Caryn S. Fennell, we will appoint a suitable attorney experienced in step-parent adoptions to help you prepare this letter, which, if completed correctly, will expedite the adoption process. The attorney assigned to your case will then guide you through all other aspects of step-parent adoption, including:
If the absent parent of your stepchild (essentially the parent whom you will be replacing) is deceased, the adoption process will be relatively straightforward once you and your spouse have completed all necessary paperwork. However, if your stepchild’s noncustodial parent is alive, you will more often than not be required to obtain their permission to proceed with the adoption. Oftentimes, the noncustodial parent will be reluctant to relinquish their rights to the child, which may result in all parties entering into mediation to resolve the issue. If such a scenario should arise, we will work around the clock to ensure noncustodial consent is obtained with little delay.
In certain cases of step-parent adoption, the step-parent and their spouse may wish to have the child’s surname changed to that of the step-parent in order to lend a traditional aspect to the distinctly modern family arrangement. This is not a particularly complicated matter, but if you are considering changing the surname of your stepchild to match your own, it is advisable to consult with the child first rather than simply forcing your name upon them.
While a home study is an essential aspect of any adoption in which neither potential parent has any rights to the child in question, it may be waived in the case of a step-parent adoption if the Court is satisfied with the primary physical custodian’s declaration of consent. However, it is not unheard of for a step-parent to be the focus of a home study before they are permitted to adopt their stepchild. As frustrating—and certainly insulting—as this may be, we recommend embracing the home study and submitting any personal documents which the Court may deem of interest should it decide to conduct a background check.
A final word
The process of a step-parent adoption is physically and emotionally exhausting. Step-parents hoping to be recognized as a legal parent of their stepchild or stepchildren should brace themselves for a barrage of paperwork and unforeseen, often seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We to do everything in our power to make the process as pleasant an experience as possible and will be honored to assist you in the adoption of your soon-to-be child.