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Georgia Case Law Update – Parker v. Stone

Often, adoption hearings are happy – a family is bringing in a child to their home and filling that child’s life with stability and love. However, the adoption process itself can be tricky as the parental rights of the biological parents must be terminated before the adoption can be finalized. Sometimes, family members other than the biological parents may object to the adoption, even if the biological parents do not – but do they have standing to do so? The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently addressed this issue. Parker v. Stone, A15A1223, Court of Appeals of Georgia (2015).

In Parker v. Stone, Parker, the half brother of the child’s biological father objected to the child’s adoption by the Stone family, claiming it was not in the child’s best interest. (His brother, the child’s biological father, had already surrendered his parental rights.) After the trial court entered a decree of adoption, Parker appealed. The Stones filed a motion to dismiss his appeal, arguing that he lacked standing to file said appeal because he was not a party to the adoption case. The Court of Appeals denied the Stones’ motion to dismiss, holding: Georgia law “gives blood relatives of a child the right, when the specified criteria are met, to participate in adoption proceedings to a certain extent, that is, by filing objections, and the statute inherently requires the trial court to consider all properly filed objections. A trial court’s decision to grant a petition to adopt a child over the objections of a blood relative who has a statutory right to lodge objections is necessarily an adverse decision as to that person. We conclude that right to appellate review of such an adverse decision flows from the statutory right to participate in the proceedings in the trial court.” Id.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals of Georgia found that he did have standing to file the appeal, but affirmed the trial court’s order granting the adoption. So, while this family member lost in the end, the fact that he was allowed to have a voice is important. Thus, if you are a family member and object to the adoption, let your voice be heard at the trial level. Though the Court did not address this issue, it is possible that if you do not bring your objection at the trial level, you may lose your right to appeal an adverse decision.

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