Skip to main content
Jessica Lynne Gordon

Jessica Gordon’s Answers

59 total


  • My wife wants to change my stepdaughters last name to mine. What process do I have to go through for this?

    I've raised my stepdaughter since she was 5, now 12. Married 5 years with my undocumented wife. Biological father hasn't and is not around, not listed on birth certificate. Trying to assure custody if anything were to happen to my wife (mostly dep...

    Jessica’s Answer

    Changing her last name in and of itself will not afford you any additional rights. It sounds like what you are really asking about is a step-parent adoption. Your first step should be to find an attorney who specializes in Adoption in your state. Consider finding an attorney through the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys - www.adoptionattorneys.org. Is your step-daughter a US citizen? If so, when a U.S. citizen adopts a U.S. citizen child living in the United States, this is a domestic adoption, regardless of the citizenship of her legal parent. It also means that this case would fall outside The Hague Convention on Protection of Children & Cooperation in Respect to Intercountry Adoptions, which governs international adoptions between countries who are signatories to this treaty.
    You will next have to find out where the biological father stands with respect to his rights under your state’s adoption law. He may be considered a biological father or a legal father. There are different criteria depending on their legal status. In Georgia, legal fathers are ones who were married to the birthmother or acknowledged paternity (got their names on the birth certificate), but you should consult with an attorney to find out what the criteria is in your state.
    In most states, it is easier to have the rights of a biological father terminated. Usually, the biological father’s rights can be terminated without written consent after notice is given and he does not respond for a certain period of time.
    If either father is determined to be a legal father, however, check with your lawyer about having his rights terminated on the grounds of abandonment. In Georgia, if legal fathers have not communicated, supported and seen their children in over a year, then the courts here can terminate their rights based on abandonment. Again, you should ask your lawyer if there is a similar statute in your state.
    The other option is to find the biological father and ask if he is willing to sign over his parental rights to your step-daughter. Even if her biological father is out of the country, if he is willing to sign over his parental rights to your step-daughter, the step-parent adoption can usually be approved in court. The key is to make sure that the father is given proper notice. If he is out of the country, you want to make sure that you choose an attorney who has experience in serving birth parents internationally, as other laws and treaties often apply to this process. My office handles these cases regularly. If we can be of assistance, do not hesitate to call us at (770) 642-6075.
    The most important thing you can give your step-daughter is her complete medical history. Above all else, try to get a complete history from her natural father - you never know what the future brings, and if you completely lose touch with him in the future, this may be very helpful to have.
    Once the biological father’s rights have been determined, you can go forward with the step-parent adoption and terminate any rights he may have. After the completion of the adoption, the biological father will no longer have any rights to the child and will not be liable for any future child support.
    Also, in terms of your fear that your wife may be deported, have you considered filing a family petition for her? If you are a U.S. citizen, she may be eligible to receive immigration benefits based on your marriage. I would highly suggest that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney to find out your options. Additionally, if your step-daughter does not already have immigration benefits here, then you can consider filing a step-parent petition with USCIS. My office also handles these cases, or you can find a list of other experienced immigration attorneys through http://www.ailalawyer.com/.

    Good luck!

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated

    See question 
  • Is natural father required to relinquish for adult adoptions in Georgia?

    I wish to adopt my grown stepdaughters ages 31 and 29 who have considered me "Dad" for approximately 20 years. They and their mother (my wife of 19 years) agree to the adoption. Do I still need their natural father's permission to adopt them thoug...

    Jessica’s Answer

    It is perfectly natural to want to seek to legalize an emotional attachment to adults in your life who you would like to play the role of parent to, regardless if they are already over the age of 18. Therefore, an adult adoption does seem like a good legal solution. In Georgia, an adult adoption does not require the consent of the legal parent, therefore you would not have to involve their biological parents in their decision to be adopted by a different, loving, adult. Additionally, adult adoption is usually a much easier and less expensive process than the adoption of a child.

    If you would like to discuss the process in detail, my office would be happy to talk with you. We are located in Georgia and concentrate on adoption. We regularly give guidance on this type of case. You can also find a list of other experienced Georgia adoption attorneys through www.gacal.org.

    Good luck!

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

    See question 
  • I would like to adopt my former partner's adult daughter who is 27. She wants this, too.

    Can we go to the library and copy a legal form and "fill in the blanks" to do this? We would then file the petition ourselves and attend the hearing together. Or will the court require attorney intervention? He is now deceased, but we want our bon...

    Jessica’s Answer

    It is perfectly natural to want to seek to legalize an emotional attachment to an adult in your life who you would like to play the role of parent to, regardless if she is already over the age of 18. Therefore, an adult adoption does seem like a good legal solution. Most states have a provision in their statutes allowing for adoption of adults. In Georgia, an adult adoption does not require the consent of the legal parents, so if your state’s laws are similar, she would not have to involve her biological parents in her decision to be adopted by a different, loving, adult. Additionally, adult adoption is usually a much easier and less expensive process than the adoption of a child. I recommend that you speak with an experienced adoption attorney in your state. You can find a list of experienced adoption attorneys through www.adoptionattorneys.org.

    Good luck!

    See question 
  • My husband and I adopted to children that are here illegally they were brought over with their parents

    The boy was six and the girl two so they had so choice both parents are decease know they have been in are care for six years we have adopted them. but having trouble getting a social security card what to do? My husband and I are US citizens

    Jessica’s Answer

    Congratulations on your adoptions. I am sorry to hear about your children’s biological parents’ passing. The intersection between adoption and immigration is a complicated field, and I recommend you contact an attorney with both immigration and adoption experience. My office specializes in this and would be glad to set up a consultation for you. We work with clients all over the United States and around the world so we are always happy to do phone, skype or facetime consultations for our clients living out of state. Otherwise, you can find a list of other experienced immigration attorneys through http://www.ailalawyer.com/ and other experienced adoption attorneys through www.adoptionattorneys.org.

    Let me give you some basic background to get you started. The Hague Convention on Protection of Children & Cooperation in Respect to Intercountry Adoptions came into effect for the United States on April 1, 2008. Therefore, any adoptions after that date done between a child who is a habitual resident of a foreign Convention Country and adoptive parents who are United States Citizens, would fall under this Hague Convention and need to follow all the rules and regulations in order for the child to obtain immigration benefits. Those adoptions that were completed before April 1, 2008 did not need to follow the Hague Regulations. Did you complete the adoptions before April 1, 2008? If so, then you will need to have your children qualified by USCIS as “adopted children” in order to get immigration benefits for them. I highly recommend that you contact an immigration attorney to help you with this process, as it is more complicated than just filling out forms.

    If your adoptions were done after April 1, 2008, then you could get the adoptions vacated and go back and do a full Hague Adoption. Please do not attempt this without knowledgeable legal counsel. There are other options as well. Under U.S. regulations, you could obtain a letter from the central authority of your children’s home country that says specifically what is required under the U.S. regulation. Again, an experienced attorney can discuss with you exactly what to request from the Central Authority. This letter would need to be submitted back into your local adoption court and you would need to have the original adoptions supplemented with that information. Then you could petition USCIS as discussed above. Finally, there is a potential third option based on their abandonment by their biological parents that could potentially yield immigration benefits for them. But again, their cases would need to be analyzed by an experienced attorney with juvenile law experience, immigration experience and adoption experience.

    Good luck!

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

    See question 
  • Adopting a 28 yr old girl

    What has to be done to adopt a 28 yr old girl. She has no one in this world. They are all gone. Please advise. Thank you

    Jessica’s Answer

    It is perfectly natural to want to seek to legalize an emotional attachment to an adult in your life who you would like to play the role of parent to, regardless if she is already over the age of 18. Therefore, an adult adoption does seem like a good legal solution. Most states have a provision in their statutes allowing for adoption of adults. In Georgia, an adult adoption does not require the consent of the legal parents, so if your state’s laws are similar, she would not have to involve her biological parents in her decision to be adopted by a different, loving, adult.

    Additionally, adult adoption is usually a much easier and less expensive process than the adoption of a child. I recommend that you speak with an experienced adoption attorney in your state. You can find a list of experienced adoption attorneys through www.adoptionattorneys.org.

    Good luck!

    See question 
  • My boyfriend wants to adopt my 10 year old daughter.

    I live in Georgia and my boyfriend wants to adopt my daughter. We plan to marry in 2015 but would like to do the adoption before then. We have been together for 5 years and she's now 10. Her biological father is recently deceased and not listed o...

    Jessica’s Answer

    I agree with my colleagues’ answers that if you want to retain your rights to your daughter, under Georgia law, you will usually need to wait until after your marriage for your husband to file for a step-parent adoption. I also agree that adoptions are very delicate cases. You want to make sure that the adoption is done properly. For the protection of your daughter, you should seek the assistance of an adoption attorney to help you through the process.

    Because the biological father is deceased, the step-parent adoption should go fairly smoothly after you are married. It may be possible to try to do a second parent adoption prior to the marriage, given the other facts in your case, but I suspect that most judges would want to see the legal commitment of the marriage prior to granting the adoption. Of course, this is something that you should discuss with your attorney.

    Additionally, the most important thing you can give your daughter is her complete medical history. Above all else try to get a complete history from her biological father’s family - we never know what the future brings and the more that you can learn from his relatives, especially in relation to the possible reasons for the premature death, the better prepared you can be to help your daughter prevent any hereditary diseases in the future.

    I would be happy to discuss this further with you. My office handles cases like this regularly. You can reach us at 770-642-6075. Or you can find a list of other experienced adoption attorneys in Georgia at www.gacal.org.

    Good luck!

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

    See question 
  • Can a illegal woman get child support for his child born in the USA? Father is American citizen.

    Mother would like to relocate in another state, father is not on the birth certificate. Would she get in trouble if she leaves town with her child?

    Jessica’s Answer

    The right to receive child support belongs to the child, not the parent. Therefore, if the child is a U.S. citizen, there should not even be a question about the status of the mother. Furthermore, child support is not dependent on the immigration status of the parents. Parents of children under the age of 21 often are required to pay child support for any child not living with them, regardless of their immigration status and the immigration status of the custodial parent.

    This is a complicated field, and I recommend you contact an attorney with both immigration and family law experience. You can find a list of experienced immigration attorneys through http://www.ailalawyer.com/.

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

    Good luck!

    See question 
  • Can I adopt my 20 yr old niece who is currently here in the country legally?

    my sister and her family is legally here in the country.My niece is under f1 visa but I want her to stay with me. considering her age can I still adopt her? what are the requirements?

    Jessica’s Answer

    I recommend that you seek the assistance of an experienced attorney. This is a complicated field, and I suggest that you contact an attorney with both immigration and adoption experience. My office specializes in this and would be glad to set up a consultation for you. Otherwise, you can find a list of other experienced immigration attorneys through http://www.ailalawyer.com/ and other experienced adoption attorneys through www.adoptionattorneys.org.

    Here are the basics. If you adopt a child past when the child turned 16, you will not be able to petition for immigration benefits for her based on the adoption. There is one exception to this rule, which is that if you adopt a sibling group, and one was below 16 and the other was over 16 but under 18, then you would be able to petition for immigration benefits for both children based on the adoption. However, it sounds like your niece is already over 18 and not in a sibling group.

    Additionally, you should be careful in going forward with this because adoption for the purposes of immigration is considered fraud. That being said, though, from your question, it does not seem like immigration benefits was the only reason you wanted to adopt your neice. It sounds like you have bonded with her and would like her to stay a part of your family. If it is true that your goal is family unity, there are potentially other routes to immigration benefits.

    Again, if you would like to discuss the process in detail, my office would be happy to talk with you. We regularly give guidance on this type of case.

    Good luck!

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated. You can also choose a "best answer" if you wish.

    See question 
  • I am a US citizen and I adopted 2 kids.They are sisters.I adopt them at the of 16 and 18.I just want to petition them.

    I am a US citizen and I adopted 2 kids.They are sisters.I adopt them at the of 16 and 18.But the Finalization of the adoption took 2 years.And now they are already 18 and 20.My question is I just want to petition them and what form do I need to us...

    Jessica’s Answer

    I agree with my colleague’s answer that you need to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney. This is a complicated field, and I recommend you contact an attorney with both immigration and adoption experience. My office specializes in this and would be glad to set up a consultation for you. Otherwise, you can find a list of other experienced immigration attorneys through http://www.ailalawyer.com/ and other experienced adoption attorneys through www.adoptionattorneys.org.

    Here are the basics. If you adopted a child past when the child turned 16, you will not be able to petition for immigration benefits for her based on the adoption. There is one exception to this rule, which is that if you adopted a sibling group, and one was below 16 and the other was over 16 but under 18, then you would be able to petition for immigration benefits for both children based on the adoption. However, it sounds like from your question that the adoptions were completed after the younger sibling turned 16.

    There are potentially other routes to immigration benefits that may apply depending on the facts of the case. Again, if you would like to discuss the process in detail, my office would be happy to talk with you. We regularly give guidance on this type of case.

    Good luck!

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

    See question 
  • Do we need a home study if she wants to give us custody of her preborn baby

    she(my sister) wants to give us custody of her pre-born baby she is due in feb 2014 but we do not have a home study do we need one since she wants to give us custody or can we by pass that

    Jessica’s Answer

    First, I think you should discuss this situation with an attorney. Adoptions and custody arrangements are delicate matters and I would recommend that you talk through all the legalities with an experienced adoption law attorney. I would be happy to discuss this with you. My office handles cases like this regularly. You can reach us at 770-642-6075. Or you can find a list of other experienced adoption attorneys in Georgia at www.gacal.org.

    Second, you should be aware of a few things. First, your sister will have full rights to her child under Georgia law at least until after she delivers the baby. Georgia statutory law provides for a way for birth fathers to sign what is called a pre-birth surrender, but a birth mother cannot surrender her rights until after she delivers the baby. It is customary to wait at least 24 hours after the baby arrives and of course to make sure that she is off heavy medication before proceeding with executing the surrender documents. These documents, however, would be so that the birth parents can surrender their rights in order to place the baby with you for an adoption.

    You mention in your question “custody,” which is a very different legal arrangement than adoption. I am guessing that you are trying to decide between adoption and guardianship. Here are few of the differences to consider:
    In a legal guardianship, the parents of the child (or individual) still have parental rights and also may maintain reasonable contact with the child. However, in adoption, the parent’s rights have permanently been severed, either through surrender of parental rights or termination by the court.
    The legal guardianship may be revoked at any time, simply by the parent revoking consent to the guardianship. An adoption, on the other hand, is permanent and legally binding.
    In regards to inheritance, adoptees are entitled to receive any inheritance left to them by their adoptive parents, unless there are instructions in the will to the contrary. However, if part of a legal guardianship, the individual is not by default entitled to receive the inheritance left to them by their legal guardians.
    In a legal guardianship, courts are allowed to supervise the guardians. However, courts do not supervise the adoptive families.
    In regards to finances, adoptive parents are responsible for providing all financial support needed for the child to survive. However, legal guardians need only provide certain amounts – such as, for food, shelter and education. The birth parents are still responsible for providing the child with some financial support as well.
    Finally, to answer your question directly about whether or not you need a home study, if you are going to simply get a guardianship over the child, you can do this through probate court. With your sister and the birthfather’s consent the court will usually approve the guardianship without requiring anything further in terms of an in home investigation. If on the other hand, you are wanting to adopt the child, then you will need to consider what type of adoption this will be. If the birthmother is indeed your biological sister or a sister through adoption or marriage, then this would be considered a relative adoption under Georgia statutory law. There is an exception for relative adoptions that allows for the Court to waive the home study requirement and allow you to fill out a declaration in lieu of in home visit instead of needing a full-blown home study. Home studies are always required in independent adoptions, i.e. when you are not related to the child to the degree required under statutory law. Some courts will still require a court-report, which is more like a mini home study, even in relative adoptions, so this is something that you and your attorney can look into further.

    I hope you found this answer helpful and if so, please let me know by clicking the "Mark as Helpful" button at the bottom of this answer. It’s easy and appreciated.

    Good luck!

    See question