A child may be adopted by the spouse of his/her parent in Georgia regardless of whether the child’s other parent is still living, but there are different requirements for each situation. If thechild has only one legal parent still living, the child may be adopted by the spouse of his/her living parent only if that parent consents in writing to the adoption. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(a)(2). Ifboth of the child’s legal parents are living, but not married to each other, the child may be adopted by the spouse of either parent only if the other parent voluntarily surrenders his/herparental rights in writing and the other parent consents in writing to the adoption. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(a)(1). In either situation, a child fourteen years of age or older must consent in writing tohis or her adoption. O.C.G.A. §19-8-6(b).
If the party whose rights the stepparent seeks to terminate refuses to surrender his/her rights, the Court will hold a hearing to determine whether the adoption is in the best interests of thechild. If that parent cannot be found, the stepparent must exercise due diligence to try to locate the parent to provide him/her with sufficient notice under Georgia law. The biological/legalparent must receive adequate notice of the proceedings before the Court will grant the adoption and, in our experience as divorce attorneys in Atlanta, the Courts are very strict on this issue.
Before a stepparent adoption can be finalized, the stepparent must undergo a criminal background check through the Georgia Crime Information Center. The Department of Human Resources, or otherrepresentative appointed by the Court, will also become involved to verify the allegations in the Petition for Stepparent Adoption. This representative routinely interviews the stepparent andparent and may even visit the home where the child is living.