Pennsylvania adoption laws

Pennsylvania adoption laws require specific and detailed documents to be filed with the Court. In addition, each county within Pennsylvania has local rules which detail additional requirements specific to that county. The attorneys at Bentley, Kopecki, Smith P.C. have handled adoptions in Berks, Lancaster, and Lebanon counties. Thus, we are experienced in handling your adoption matter in those counties. 

Who can adopt under Pennsylvania adoption laws?

Pennsylvania law allows any individual to be an adopting parent. The person does not have to be married in order to adopt. Third parties unrelated to the child can adopt. Family members, including step-parents, can also adopt in Pennsylvania.  

Who can be adopted in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law does not restrict who may be adopted. The attorneys at Bentley, Kopecki, Smith P.C have handled cases where both minor children and adults have been adopted. 

Whose consent is needed for adoption?

It depends. Consent is always required from any person over the age of 12 who is being adopted. Also, consent of birth parents is often required. There are, however, situations where a birth parent’s consent is not required. It is important to hire an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in handling adoptions. 

How can a parent’s rights be terminated under Pennsylvania adoptions laws?

There are two different ways to terminate parental rights under Pennsylvania adoption laws. The first way is for the parent to consent to the termination of his or her parental rights. This is considered to be a voluntary termination of parental rights. In this case, that parent must sign a document whereby they consent to the termination of rights. That parent has 30 days to change his or her mind and withdraw the consent to terminate rights. The court will schedule a hearing to confirm the consent executed by the parent whose rights are being terminated. The petitioning parent must serve notice of this hearing on the parent who consented to the termination of parental rights. In addition, a minimum of 10 days’ notice of the hearing must be given to the parent whose rights are being terminated. The parent whose rights are being terminated is not required to attend the hearing, but they may certainly appear if they so choose. 

The second way is to proceed with an involuntary termination of parental rights. There are several reasons why a parent can petition the court to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of the other parent. These include:

  1. The parent by conduct continuing for a period of at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition either has evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to a child or has refused or failed to perform parental duties.
  2. The repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or subsistence necessary for his physical or mental well-being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent.
  3. In the case of a newborn child, the parent knows or has reason to know of the child’s birth, does not reside with the child, has not married the child’s other parent, has failed for a period of four months immediately preceding the filing of the petition to make reasonable efforts to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child and has failed during the same four-month period to provide substantial financial support for the child.
  4. The parent is the father of a child conceived as a result of a rape or incest.

The Court will schedule a hearing to determine if it is appropriate to terminate the rights of a parent. The burden to prove whether it is in the best interest of the child to terminate a parent’s rights always lies with the parent who files the petition. Adoption law is a very specialized area requiring an attorney knowledgeable and skilled in the types of evidence required to meet this burden. The skilled attorneys at Bentley, Kopecki, Smith can expertly guide you step by step through this process. 

Can one parent’s rights be terminated without someone to adopt? 

Generally, the answer is no. We often have people call who want to terminate his or her rights or who ask to have the other parent’s rights terminated. Typically, one parent’s rights cannot be terminated unless there is someone else to step into the place of the parent whose parental rights are being terminated. This means that generally a parent’s rights can only be terminated through an adoption. 

What happens after a parent’s rights have been terminated?

After parental rights have been terminated, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, a second hearing will need to be held in order to finalize the adoption. This process varies by county, so it is important to hire an attorney who is well versed in the procedures specific to the county in which the hearing is being held. This is always a happy and emotional hearing. Courts encourage friends and family to attend this joyful day. Most courts permit photographs to be taken after the conclusion of the hearing. Some judges even love to be included in those photos. 

Contact Our Pennsylvania Adoptions Laws Attorneys Today

If you would like to know more about Pennsylvania’s adoption laws, and the rights of both the adopting parents and the birth parents, contact our attorneys as they have many years’ experience handling adoption cases in the Berks County, Lancaster County and Lebanon County, Pennsylvania areas.