New Georgia Laws Are Aimed at Encouraging Adoptions
Several changes to the Georgia Adoption Code that took effect in July 2021 make it easier — both legally and financially — to adopt children in the state. The legislation is designed to encourage people to adopt children from Georgia and particularly those in Georgia’s foster care system.
The package of new laws includes these measures:
- Reduced minimum age to adopt — The pool of parents eligible to adopt children has been widened by lowering the minimum age to be an adoptive parent from 25 to 21. This can work to allow an older sibling to adopt a child.
- Increased tax credit — Families that adopt a child from foster care can receive an annual tax credit of $6,000 (raised from $2,000) for five years after the adoption.
- Tuition waiver — Tuition at state colleges is waived for adoptive children (and children in foster care) whose parents receive adoptive help from the state. To qualify for the waiver, the children must attend college within three years of receiving a high school diploma or a GED certificate.
- Expanded evidence — A court hearing an adoption case may consider any evidence that it finds to be relevant, reliable and necessary to determining the needs of the child to be adopted or the fitness of the adoptive parents. This includes hearsay evidence, which was formerly not admissible in adoption cases. The new laws also expand court access to child abuse records.
- Simplified process service — Legal parents and biological fathers must be served with notice of adoption proceedings, but this can now be done by certified mail. Under prior law, service had to be made by registered mail or overnight delivery.
- Electronic court appearances — A nonresident of the state can now petition to adopt a child in Georgia and can appear electronically to finalize the adoption as long as it is not contested.
Even with these amendments, adoption remains a complicated legal procedure that requires careful attention to the standards for establishing parental fitness. Courts deciding adoption cases will always focus on protecting the best interests of the child. All adoptive parents usually must undergo an investigation and pass other screening requirements.
The Law Office of S. Mark Mitchell, LLC assists people throughout northern Georgia in complying with the adoption process. Please call 470-344-8550 or contact me online to schedule a free initial consultation at my Newnan office.