Adoptions can occur among individuals who are related, or are not related.  A very common scenario in Pennsylvania is the “step-parent adoption.”  “Grandparent adoptions” are also increasing, often as a result of the unfortunate opioid epidemic.

Pennsylvania law provides, “Any individual may be adopted, regardless of his age or residence.”  An adoptee can be a minor or a legal adult.  An adoptee age 12 or older must sign a written Consent to the adoption.

Yes, a parent can execute a Consent to give up the parent’s rights to the child and to allow the child to be adopted.  With a few exceptions and minutiae, that parent has 30 days in which to revoke the Consent.

The termination of a person’s parental rights is most often done in conjunction with an adoption.  Typically a Court will not terminate one parent’s parental rights unless another individual is ready and willing to step into that parental role.

Parental rights can be terminated by consent or involuntarily.  In either event, a hearing must be held before a Judge.

For the specific situation where a parent has been absent, the law provides that parental rights may be terminated when: 

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.

23 Pa.C.S. § 2511(a)(1).  At the hearing the Court will also consider “the developmental, physical and emotional needs and welfare of the child” and the child’s bonds with various adults in his or her life.

The biological parent must be given notice of the hearing and must have an opportunity to appear and present evidence.  

Yes.  Although a father is not named on a birth certificate, the child still has a biological father who has parental rights.  You must request the termination of parental rights of the man whom you believe to be the father.

Where paternity was never established (through an Acknowledgement of Paternity or paternity test), the law provides that “The natural mother shall be a competent witness as to whether the presumptive or putative father is the natural father of the child.”

Sometimes a parent loses track of an absent biological parent.  If the parent seeking termination can demonstrate to the Judge’s satisfaction that he or she has exhausted all methods of locating that parent, the Judge may allow the petitioning parent to publish notice of the case in a newspaper where the absent parent can reasonably be expected to live OR in the area of the absent parent’s last known address.  That notice in the newspaper is considered adequate, then, to notify the absent parent of the pending adoption and hearing.

An agent under a POA has a significant amount of authority, but the document can be invaluable if you become hospitalized or temporarily or permanently incapacitated.  If you should end up in such a state without having executed a POA, often a guardianship proceeding must go through the Courts, which can be time-consuming and costly.

In Pennsylvania, adoptive parents and birth relatives of an adoptee can enter into a PACA – a Post-Adoption Contact Agreement.

The types of contact under a PACA can vary from in-person visits with the child to written communication with the child to no contact with the child but regular updates/photos from the adoptive parents.

A PACA is voluntary.  It must be submitted to the Court for approval, but the Court will not impose a PACA upon any party who does not wish to have one.

Once a PACA is executed and approved by the Court, only the adoptive parent(s) or child who is over the age of 12 can request that the Court formally modify it.  Any party, including a child who is 12 years old or older, can ask that the Court terminate a PACA, and the Court may do so if it determines that it would be in the best interests of the child.

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