Every adoption, whether public or private, requires the biological parent or parents to relinquish their rights to the child so that the court may legally establish the adoptive family’s parental rights. Simply put, it is a process of transferring parental rights from one person or pair to another.
In some cases, the transference of parental rights is a smooth, issue-free process, making the adoption uncontested. However, when the adoption is contested, it leads to a complicated, drawn-out adoption process.
This month, we are diving deep into the differences between uncontested and contested adoptions to help clarify each and prepare you for what you can expect from either possibility.
What Is an Uncontested Adoption?
An uncontested adoption is one wherein the biological parent or parents willingly relinquish their parental rights to the child so that the adoptive family may gain legal parental rights instead. Uncontested adoptions are typically straightforward, and the process is fairly smooth since there are few speedbumps or roadblocks to work through.
Whether it is a kinship adoption, stepparent adoption, or private adoption, the goal for any adoptive family is to undergo an uncontested adoption. However, the simplicity of the process hinges on the biological parent(s) and their willingness to terminate their legal rights.
Some uncontested adoptions only require the mother to terminate her rights as she is the only one with parental rights over the child. This is most common in cases where a child is born outside of marriage. In Georgia, mothers are always granted legal parental rights. Fathers are only given parental rights through legitimation or by being married to the mother when the child is born. If a man fathers a child out of wedlock but does not seek legitimation of the child, and the mother willingly relinquishes her rights for the adoption, there is no need to seek termination of rights from the father since he has no rights to terminate.
What Is a Contested Adoption?
A contested adoption is one where either the biological mother, father, or both are unwilling to terminate their parental rights so that someone else may adopt their child. Contested adoptions can take several forms and can turn into complicated and drawn-out legal battles between the biological parent(s) and the adoptive family. The adoptive family must prove to the court why they should be allowed to legally adopt the child, while the biological parent(s) must demonstrate their ability and willingness to care for their child. In contested adoptions, the judge must determine what is in the child’s best interest and base their rulings on that determination.
Common Reasons for a Contested Adoption
There are several reasons an adoption can become contested, including:
The Biological Parents Refuse to Terminate Their Rights Willingly
If the mother and father have rights to their child, but a family member or friend wants to adopt their child, both parents could refuse to terminate their rights as parents. It is also possible for only the mother or only the father to have rights that they refuse to terminate.
It requires serious reasons or circumstances for family members or friends to pursue the adoption of a child against the parents’ wishes. The adoptive family must present undeniable evidence that the parents are unfit.
Circumstances of unfit parenting can include:
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Negligent parenting
- Significant mental health challenges
- Substance abuse without any successful attempts at recovery
If friends or family members genuinely believe a mother, father, or both are unfit as parents, but the parents refuse to give up their parental rights, a judge can order termination of their rights when presented with solid evidence. If the judge determines that the evidence presented does not prove unfit parenting, the parents retain their rights and prevent any adoption from proceeding.
The Biological Father Intervenes in the Adoption Process
Another common reason an adoption can become contested is because the biological father intervenes. In these cases, the mother is willing to terminate her rights, but the biological father is not. In some cases, the father already has rights to his child; in other cases, he wishes to establish his rights and gain custody of the child.
It could be that an unmarried biological father did not know about the child until recently and would like the opportunity to pursue legitimation. Or perhaps the biological father initially knew about and consented to the adoption but changed his mind. There are numerous potential circumstances regarding the father and his decision to contest an adoption.
In these cases, all parties involved will attend a hearing so that the judge can decide if the adoption should continue. The father must prove his willingness and ability to establish his rights, if necessary, and care for the child. Based on the evidence, the court may decline the father’s petition and allow the adoption to continue. Or the judge may side with the father, stopping the adoption process.
Caught in a Contested Adoption? You Need Platt Family Law on Your Side.
Contested adoptions can become complex, murky, and litigious, which is why it is essential to have a solid legal team to advocate for you throughout the adoption process. Even uncontested adoptions can become contested at any point, complicating the adoption process quickly.
Whether you are the adoptive family seeking to gain parental rights over a child, or you are the parents and do not wish to terminate your rights, let our dedicated family lawyers support you. Our all-female team offers the legal guidance and advocacy you need in the courtroom to either keep your rights or gain rights as parents. Schedule a consultation with our firm today to discuss your adoption case and discover the best path forward. 404-255-3434