• Legal Guardianship in Georgia

    Legal Guardianship in GeorgiaThere are several situations where you might want to consider the responsibilities of a legal guardian.  This can arise from a variety of reasons and you need to know what will – or won’t – be your duties or rights in the event that you become a guardian in the state of Georgia.  Because there are various types of guardianships that arise in different circumstances, let’s take a few of the most common types one at a time.  We’re always happy to give you specific answers to your own situation as well,  so please feel free to ask us.
    Typically a guardian may be legally responsible for the safety, shelter, education, nurturing, financial management, or medical care of another person.
    Becoming the guardian of a minor child is one common form of guardianship that allows you legally to take part in the life of the child.  A guardianship is not the same as an adoption. Unlike an adoption which terminates the legal rights of the birth parents so that the adoptive parent(s) have full rights and obligations – – a guardianship does not end the legal parental relationship between a child and his/her biological parents.  Instead a guardianship provides an additional legal relationship between the guardian and the child.
     A child’s guardian may have one unique responsibility which could occur if a minor child inherits a gift from someone’s will.  In this instance the courts may approve a guardianship to manage the gift or assets until the child is of legal age (18 years old) to manage his own finances.  A biological parent may be named a legal guardian in this case.
    On one hand, becoming a child’s guardian can facilitate your right to influence the child’s medical care and medical decisions, manage the child’s finances, guide the quality of life, or direct his educational choices.  But on the other hand, becoming a legal guardian is a request that can trigger resentment or resistance from a biological parent. If a guardian is appointed, the biological parent may not owe any further financial support.
    At the other end of the life continuum, a guardianship may become desirable for someone who is incapacitated or elderly.  If the adult ward is not able to communicate his/her responsible decisions regarding needs or safety, a more encompassing alternative to guardianship is a conservatorship. There are typically medical, financial, or safety concerns that necessitate an adult guardianship and there are guardianship obligations that accompany this decision.  The legal definitions of guardianship law are specific and can be found in the link in this sentence.  A guardian for the elderly may have access to additional resources to help with the financial and medical decisions that become necessary for the adult’s safety and wellbeing.
    In the event that a minor child or an elderly or incapacitated adult is unable to represent themselves in court, a special type of guardianship may be appointed.  This is called Ad Litem guardianship.  An Ad Litem guardian will represent the ward in court proceedings.  An Ad Litem guardian may be a close relative or a responsible party such as an attorney, and this type of guardianship is common during divorce hearings or when settling estates.
    We encourage you to do a couple of things.  Please check out our link above to find the exact definitions of guardianship law in Georgia … and then let us know how we can help you with your own questions about possible guardianships for your needs.
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  • Types of Georgia Adoptions

    Adoption in GeorgiaAdoption can be a rewarding and emotional experience for all involved.  It’s important to know what to expect and what options are available with various types of legal adoptions in Georgia.
    Sometimes a relative will step in and take over the care of the children.  In order to qualify as a relative, the adoptive parent must be directly related to the adoptee by blood or by marriage.  Often grandparents or aunts and uncles step into this role, but in some families a child’s brother or sister can qualify to adopt them.
    A variation of a relative’s adoption is when a step-parent adopts his/her spouse’s child.  Before the adoption process, if there is a non-custodial parent of the child, that non-custodial parent must legally consent (terminate) their own parental rights.  Then the prospective step-parent must allow a criminal background check along with verification from the court that the adoption application facts are accurate.  In the case of a step-parent, the adoptive parent does not need a pre-placement evaluation of the home.
    Many of the children who are in the Georgia foster care system become eligible for adoption through the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).  In the DFCS foster care system, a child is in the custody of DFCS while being fostered.  As custodian, DFCS must give written consent to any proposed adoption.  There will be a pre-placement home study to assure an appropriate environment, as well as a criminal background check of the proposed adoptive family.  The family will receive an information form about the adoptive child’s background.  PRIOR TO the adoption, future parents should fully investigate the assistance incentives provided for a DFCS adoption… perhaps a monthly reimbursement for expenses or legal fees, or Medicaid coverage.  We will discuss other factors with you, such as arrangement for the child’s siblings.
    There are private agencies in Georgia (often parochial) who facilitate adoptions as well.  Any child-placing adoption agency in Georgia must be licensed.  The adoptive parents can anticipate a pre-placement home evaluation, a criminal background check, and the agency will provide the child’s background information and a written consent to the adoption.
    With all adoptions, we recommend that you utilize the advice of an adoption attorney to protect everyone’s future interests.  The time to scrutinize the details of the adoption, is BEFORE the adoption is final.  We know how to troubleshoot common issues that may arise.  But particularly in the next two examples, it’s almost imperative that you seek legal assistance to help steer you through the necessary steps and paperwork.
    In a private adoption (a.k.a. independent adoption), a child’s biological parent(s) may place their child directly with an adoptive parent.  In the legal process of a private adoption, a pre-placement evaluation and criminal background check are still usually required and those studies can be conducted by a licensed adoption agency or by a qualified social worker.  In this type of adoption, both the birth parents and the adoptive parents have input about the amount and nature of their future interactions.  An attorney knows how to put those agreements into writing to protect everyone’s interests.
    If adoptive parents choose to explore an international adoption to adopt a child from another country, a licensed international adoption agency should be utilized.  Because the child will be immigrating to the United States, the adoption must be approved by both the child’s country and the U.S. State Department.  This process is complicated, it varies from country to country, and involves many forms and details to assure a smooth transition for everyone in the new adoptive family.
    If you’re curious about whether an adoption will work for you, please give us a call.  There are many children waiting.  We can help.
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  • Attorney Specialist in DFCS Representation

    DFCS RepresentationThe Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) representation involves a mixture of professional skills not necessarily found in other types of legal representation.

    One set of circumstances occurs when a lawyer represents a client whose child has been removed from the home.  When this occurs, the attorney for this client has to be able to represent the client not only in the courtroom, but also has to advise the client on the steps they need to take “outside of the courtroom” to remove any real or imagined problems that DFCS claims prevents their child from being returned to the client’s home.

    Experience and involvement with these types of DFCS cases is crucial, and my extensive experience is an important skill that I provide my clients.  If you are threatened with investigation by DFCS, then you need to move quickly to retain an attorney.

    Time is precious and I understand your concerns that every day the child is out of your home is time you will never make up.  Contact me immediately so that we can work together to bring your child home to you.

    [This is a greatly simplified sketch of the DFCS process and every case is different. This overview is not meant to be nor should it be interpreted as legal advice to anyone nor does it give a complete and exhaustive discussion of the pertaining laws]

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  • DFCS – Department of Family and Children Services

    Department of Family and Child Services DFCSEach county in Georgia operates its own Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).   They offer services for issues ranging from Adoption and Child Abuse, to Food Stamps and Medicaid.   As an attorney I represent clients all the time for DFCS issues in counties such as Barrow, Clarke, Gwinnett, Jackson, and Oconee in Georgia.

    You may be wondering why a person would need an attorney to represent them when dealing with DFCS?  The answer is both simple and complex.

    On the one hand, there’s a wide range of services offered by DFCS, so often more than one service is being utilized.  For example, foster care may take place coinciding with a case of child abuse, or food stamps may be needed while a divorce is being finalized.

    But on the other hand, it’s important to know that when you work with DFCS, you are working with their own legal representation.  By law DFCS forms and attorneys must represent the best interests of DFCS.  Where does that leave you?

    Hiring your own local attorney is your best investment in assuring that you will receive all of the benefits provided by law from DFCS.  Don’t let DFCS steamroll you.  They have vast resources and you need DFCS representation to stand up to them.  And it’s important to hire someone who is familiar with all of DFCS forms and rules in your county…. someone who is a lawyer in Barrow, Clarke, Gwinnett, Jackson or Oconee counties for instance.  We know how to protect your rights.

    Give us a call.  We work in additional counties as well and we look forward to helping you when you need it.  Our fees are flexible and reasonable.

    If you want to explore your options in advance of calling us, below are some contact numbers for you.

    To report child abuse, call Child Protective Services at 1-855-422-4453

    For questions about Food Stamps, Medicaid, or Childcare, contact us or the Georgia One Customer Contact Center at 1-877-423-4746

    Here is a link to the location of all Georgia DFCS offices 

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