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Adoption is of the happiest celebrations that a family can experience. The process of getting there can also be one of the more stressful times, for a multitude of reasons. We are here to help you through the intricacies of the process so that you can focus on the wonderful new addition to your family unit.
Families are not “one size fits all,” and neither are adoptions. Pennsylvania provides for many ways to adopt a new member into your family, and we are experienced with all of them.
Adoption in General
Typically, before adopting a child, there are a few steps that the adoptive parents must follow, including having a home-study performed by a licensed agency, having criminal background checks, and filing a document called a Report of Intention to Adopt. However, if the adoptive parents are both related to the child by consanguinity (blood) or marriage, then none of these requirements apply, and the adoption can move forward without them.
It is also important to note that children over the age of 12 must consent to the adoption in order for it to take place.
Before a step-parent can adopt and formally be a co-parent with their spouse, the parental rights of the other biological parent must be terminated. This can be accomplished with the consent of the biological parent. If the biological parent does not consent, you may have grounds to seek involuntary termination. The facts of every case are different, just as every family is unique. We are here to advise you as to whether your particular case is ripe for involuntary termination.
Second Parent Adoptions
This option is an option for an unmarried person to adopt the biological child of their partner. This is similar to the step-parent adoption process, except that the adoptive partner would need to obtain a home-study and criminal background check if they are not otherwise related to the child by consanguinity (blood) or marriage.
Same Sex Couple Adoptions
It is important for same sex couples to be aware that simply listing both partners on the birth certificate does not always protect their family unit. Therefore, it is important for same sex couples to go through the process for a step-parent or second parent adoption in order to ensure that both partners are the legal parents of the child, and that any rights of the biological parent, including sperm or egg donors, have been terminated.
Surrogacy and Donation Contracts
If you are considering surrogacy or assisted reproductive technology with an egg or sperm donor, you should consult with an attorney before you begin the process. Pennsylvania law does protect Intended Parents in many situations, provided that certain steps are taken, and the written contract has specific provisions. We can work with you to ensure that the proper steps are taken to protect your rights as you move forward with this journey.
If you have already adopted a child from another country, then there are steps that you need to take in order to have the adoption formalized in the United States. There are two ways of formalizing international adoptions. The first is simply registering the adoption, without the need to go to court. The second is treating it as an entirely new adoption, filing a petition, and having a hearing in front of a judge. The option that applies to your case depends on which kind of Visa that your child has been issued. We have experience with both types of international adoption processes, and will work to make the process as easy as possible for you and your family.
Other unique issues may arise in international adoptions, such as a misspelling of your child’s name on the other country’s adoption certificate, or your child being assigned a birth date that does not accurately reflect their biological age. These are issues that we can help to remedy.
Post Adoption Contact Agreements (PACA)
Pennsylvania allows adoptive parents and biological parents and/or relatives to enter into a Post Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA), which allows for a biological relation to continue having contact with the adopted child or family. This could encompass many types of contact, including but not limited to: adoptive parents sending annual pictures and updates to the biological family member; the biological family member exchanging cards/letters/gifts with the child; telephone contact with the child; or occasional visits with the child. These contracts cannot be grounds for voluntary termination of parental rights, meaning that the biological parents cannot contract away their parental rights in exchange for a PACA. The issues must be kept separate. The PACA is presented to the judge at the time of the adoption hearing, and the judge has the final decision as to whether the PACA is in the child’s best interest. These contracts, if approved by the Court, are enforceable by the Court.
There is no maximum age requirement for adoptions, meaning that adults can seek to be adopted. An individual who has reached the age of 18 does not need to seek their biological parents’ consent or in order to be adopted. If an adult wishes to have their name changed after their adoption, they must file a separate matter for the name change. (Link to Name Change Section?)