Who Can Be an Adopting Parent in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, any individual can become an adopting parent. An adoption can be completed by a single person, a married couple, or an unmarried couple including heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered couples. The Pennsylvania adoption court process used by the unmarried heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered partner who is not the biological parent of the minor child to adopt their partner's minor child is called a Second Parent Adoption. The Pennsylvania adoption court action that involves the adoption of a minor child by their stepparent is called a Step Parent Adoption.
When heterosexual couples have children, there are a number of legal protections for the biological parents that are easily established under Pennsylvania family laws. However, in many unmarried same-sex couple situations, one partner is the biological parent of the minor child who is conceived through surrogacy, sperm donation, or other assisted reproduction and the other partner has no biological relationship and therefore no automatic legal relationship to the child. In the same-sex couple situation, an adoption case must be initiated to become the legal parent of a minor child under Pennsylvania adoption laws assuming the relationship remains intact at the time of the case or a custody case must be initiated under an in loco parentis theory if the relationship has dissolved prior to the completion of a formal adoption
The Pennsylvania Adoption Process
- Report of Intention to Adopt. This document requires information about the adoptive parents, the child, the intermediary, fees paid to the intermediary and whether counseling was provided to the birth parents. The report is not required if the adopting parents are related to the child by blood, marriage (step-parents), or adoption.
- Report of Intermediary. Examples of intermediaries are adoption lawyers, doctors, adoption agencies, or other third parties that act as the connection between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. If no intermediary is used such as when the birth parents and the adoptive parents find each other through private channels, the Report of Intermediary is not required. The report generally contains information about the intermediary, the child, the date of placement, whether termination of parental rights has occurred, an accounting of all moneys paid, a description of any property owned by the child, and statements regarding compliance with the Interstate Compact and medical history information.
- Termination of Parental Rights. There are three methods for terminating parental rights. The first method is where the birth parent agrees to a voluntary relinquishment either to an agency or to adopting parents. This method requires that the birth parents attend the termination hearing. The second method is where the birth parents have both executed written consents to terminate their rights and the court is presented with a confirmed consent petition. Birth mothers cannot sign a consent until 72 hours after birth; however, a putative father may sign his consent prior to birth. The consents become irrevocable 30 days after they are signed. A putative father who has signed the consent prior to birth has 30 days after birth to revoke his consent otherwise it becomes irrevocable. The birth parents do not have to attend the hearing to confirm the consents of the birth parents. The third method is an involuntary termination petition. There are 9 different provisions for the involuntary termination of parental rights. The provisions include: (1) when the parent for at least 6 months prior to the filing of the petition has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing their parental claim or has refused or failed to perform parental duties; (2) when there is repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, negligence, or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control, or subsistence and the conditions and causes of incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent; (3) when the parent is the presumptive but not the natural father of the child; (4) when the child was abandoned and the parents are unknown; (5) when the child has been removed by voluntary agreement for more than 6 months and the conditions that led to removal continue to exist and cannot be remedied in a reasonable period of time; (6) for newborns under 6 months of age, when a parent knows or has reason to know of the birth and for a period of months prior to the petition has failed to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child and has failed to provide substantial financial support for the child; (7) the parent is the father of a child conceived by rape or incest; (8) the child has been removed for a period of at least 12 months and the conditions that led to removal continue and termination would serve the needs and welfare of the child; and (9) when a parent has been convicted of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, an attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit such offenses in Pennsylvania where the victim is a child of the parent.
- Petition for Adoption. The Petition for Adoption is the document that sets forth information about the adoptive parent and the child and attaches as exhibits the Childline Abuse and State Police clearances (dated less than 1 year prior to the hearing), any required FBI clearances, the home study update or post-placement reports if required, original birth certificate of the child, marriage license for the adopting parents as well as marriage and divorce decrees for any prior marriages, the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children forms if applicable, INS designations for foreign adoptions, the H 105.09.1 Certificate of Adoption form for vital records purposes, certified copies of the termination decree, any consents to adoption, death certificate of former spouse or natural parent if applicable, and a certificate of counsel outlining counsel fee expenses. At the adoption petition hearing, the court will hear testimony from the social worker who conducted any home study and the adoptive parents. The child is generally required to also be present although generally he or she generally will not be asked any questions. As the birth parents' rights have been previously terminated, they are not a part of this process.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Adoption Attorneys Today
Contact our Pittsburgh adoption lawyers to speak with one of our experienced Allegheny County adoption lawyers and learn how we can help you build your family through adoption. You may also telephone our PA adoption law firm in Pittsburgh at 412-281-9906, New Castle at 724-436-5500, or toll-free at 1-855-LISA-VARI (1-855-547-2827). Our Pittsburgh office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and evenings by appointment. Our Cranberry Township, New Castle offices is open by appointment only. We're different from many other Pittsburgh adoption lawyers, click here to learn why.
Appointments are also available in Robinson Township, Mt. Lebanon (South Hills Village Mall area) and Pleasant Hills (Century III Mall area). Ask the secretary scheduling your appointment for details including appointment locations.
Our Western PA family law office routinely accepts adoption cases in Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County. Our Pittsburgh adoption attorneys accept adoption cases in other Western PA counties such as Armstrong County, Erie County, Fayette County, Greene County, Somerset County and Venango County on a case-by-case basis.