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HB 0154 - Domestic relations; protection of children; strengthen, clarify, and update provisions

Tracking Level: Monitor
Sponsor: Albert Reeves
Last Action: 5/3/2021 - Effective Date 2021-07-01
House Committee: Juvenile Justice
Senate Committee: Judiciary
Assigned To:
05. Superior CourtsNext Bill
07. Juvenile CourtsNext Bill
Domestic Relations Next Bill

Staff Analysis of the Legislation

HB 154 clarifies and updates the Code regarding statutory adoption provisions. The bill clarifies the venue alternatives when a child is placed for adoption with an out-of-state resident. The exception to the general venue rule applies when a child is placed in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) or when the petitioner is a resident of another country. HB 154 reduces the statutory age at which a person is allowed to petition for adoption from 25 to 21 years old. The bill clarifies that adoption petitioners are not subject to the requirements of the ICPC when the ICPC's relative exception applies or when the petitioners are residents of another country. Further, the bill clarifies the deadline for submitting a revocation and the method for doing so. 

HB 154 modifies various sections relating to the process and authorization of the use of certified mail, including when service is upon a parent and when state law does not require a surrender or termination of parental rights, or when state law authorizes the termination of a parent's rights based on certain circumstances. The bill allows the required search of the putative father registry to be performed after the adoption petition is filed and the results to be attached as an amendment to the petition. It also requires the petitioner to request the appointment of an investigator to verify the allegations in the adoption petition if the court fails to appoint one. HB 154 allows non-resident petitioners to appear for the final hearing via electronic means if the petition for adoption is uncontested. The bill also clarifies the naming conventions to be used and to appropriately preserve anonymity in the event that there are appeals for adoption petitions. HB 154 also provides for the court to determine whether a sufficient amount of evidence has been provided to show that a child has a viable path to lawful permanent resident status, if not already attained, rather than if the child will be able to obtain lawful permanent resident status when examining the evidence for a child born in a foreign country. 

HB 154 creates both a tort claim civil cause of action under Georgia law as well as a felony crime to address scenarios where individuals intentionally misrepresent a pregnancy, or their intention to place a child for adoption, when the individual is not pregnant. The felony crime shall be punishable by imprisonment of between one to ten years, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both, in addition to the convicted individual being subject to a court order that mandates the individual pay back any restitution to the harmed victim. This provision covers instances when the individual has no intention of placing a child for adoption and no money has been obtained by the individual, but the potential adoptive parents have expended money based on the misrepresentation. This bill additionally amends the required forms to reflect the changes made to the Code.  

Furthermore, the bill allows for the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to file a petition for the appointment of a guardian for a minor that is under the custody of DFCS so long as the minor is within six months of reaching the age of 18 years old. 

Bill Summary from the State Site - Click for the State Summary Page / Click for Current Full Text