Facing a Contested Adoption?

Atlanta’s caring lawyers help families navigate complicated legal issues

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There are 13,500 children in foster care in Georgia, and now, thanks to new legislation signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018, adoption is easier than ever.

Generally, adoptions are happy occasions, but some can be more complicated than others. That can be the case in a contested adoption, which is when one parent wants to relinquish parental rights and the other parent doesn’t want to, or can’t be located.

“This is a delicate situation,” says Marijane Cauthorn, managing partner for Cauthorn Nohr & Owen. “Will both parents voluntarily surrender parental rights? Or will a court order be involved?”

If your family is considering a contested adoption, here are some points to consider:

The same adoption process applies in contested adoptions as consensual adoptions.

Adults must meet many requirements to be considered an adoptive parent, and that’s no different in a contested adoption. For instance, you must be at least 10 years older than the child you are adopting. You must pass a criminal background check, home safety checks, as well as a medical examination. There is also an interview process.

You have to take specific steps to contact a parent.

Sometimes a parent just doesn’t want to be found, but you have to follow legal steps to attempt to contact a parent before adopting a child. For example, you can place an announcement in a legal organ stating that a petition has been filed to terminate the parental rights of the parent, and he or she has 30 days to respond under Georgia law. This announcement must be certified by the publication.  

Know what you’re dealing with — involuntary or voluntary?

An adoption cannot be finalized without the parents of the child surrendering their rights, or having them terminated. These rights can only be terminated by the court.  The Court will conduct a hearing on whether the rights of the parent should be terminated for specific reasons, including, but not limited to, abuse, abandonment, mental illness, and drug and alcohol abuse.

“There are multiple reasons that can disrupt the adoption process,” says Cauthorn. “Our job is to make the experience as smooth as possible for everyone involved.” 

Atlanta attorneys Tom Cauthorn, Lisa Owen, Bettina Davies, and Marijane Cauthorn have extensive experience in family law. Call 770-528-0150 to see how we can help.