In Georgia an adoption can occur in one of two ways, the parents may voluntarily seek to have their child adopted or they may have their parental rights terminated. Georgia allows for a consensual adoption of third parties that usually involves a stepparent or relative. If this is the case the parents will enter into a surrender of parental rights which will be included with the adoptive parent’s petition for adoption and the matter will be set for a hearing. This is probably the simplest form of adoption as it is consensual and usually obviously in the best interest of the adoptive child. Most of these cases involve an absent parent who has had little to no contact with their child nor paid support for years. The stepparent has filled this gap for years and asks the court for legal status as the parent which will terminate the absent parents obligations and rights. Other times this involves a parent unable to care for a child who voluntarily surrenders these rights through the Office of Adoptions or agency.
This process may also be contentious. In Georgia parental rights may be terminated through the filing of a contested adoption in the Superior Court. This is a very difficult process and because of the seriousness and permanency of the ruling the courts must have significant clear and convincing evidence that the biological parent’s rights should be terminated in favor of a relative. In a matter such as this it is probably more expedient to file a petition for permanent custody as the court is more inclined to grant custody that may be modified rather than a permanent adoption. The only other way to adopt a child if the parents do not consent is for the juvenile court to begin a dependency hearing and through clear and convincing evidence find that the parental rights of both parents should be terminated and the child should be placed in adoption.