There are few experiences for an attorney more rewarding than assisting with an adoption. The attorneys of Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C. have decades of combined experience in assisting clients with growing their families through adoption in Montgomery, Berks, and Chester Counties . We are committed to providing competent and compassionate representation to families as they navigate the adoption process.
There are two phases to every adoption, each defined by its respective impact on parental rights. The first phase of the case is focused on terminating parental rights and the second phase is focused on establishing new parental rights. While the path through both phases may vary depending on the circumstances of the adoption, each adoption must complete each phase.
During the termination phase, the parental rights of the birth/biological parents must be terminated. This termination can be achieved voluntary or involuntarily. For a voluntary termination, the birth father may sign a "Consent" at any time after receiving notice of the expected or actual birth of the child. The birth mother may sign a "Consent" only after a minimum of 72 hours have elapsed from the birth of the child and she is given access to appropriate counselors. The consent can only be revoked by a birth parent within 30 days of the execution of the Consent. Once the consents are signed and the revocation period is closed, the adopting parent or parents will be required to file a petition with the court to finalize the voluntary termination of the parental rights.
If one or both birth parents do not consent to the adoption, then the adoptive parents must seek an involuntary termination of the parental rights. 23 Pa.C.S. § 2511 provides the circumstances when parental rights can be terminated. Generally speaking, parental rights can be involuntary terminated when there is evidence of incapacity, abuse, neglect, or a refusal to parent by a birth parent demonstrated for an extended period of time. Involuntarily termination requires a hearing before a judge and the presentation of evidence and witnesses to support the legal grounds for involuntary termination.
After the existing parental rights are terminated, the adoption shifts to the process for establishing new parental rights. The requirements during this phase will vary depending on several factors. For example, a step-parent will not be required to submit to a home study. In general, however, an adoption will require a home study by a qualified evaluator, criminal and child abuse clearances by the Pennsylvania State Police and FBI, and the accumulation of medical histories for the child and adopting parent or parents. Depending on the circumstances, other documentation may be required, including a marriage license for the adopting parents.
Once the required documentation is gathered, then a Petition for Adoption is submitted to the Orphans' Court. The Petition will contain both the documentation referenced above and additional information on the child and the adopting parent or parents, such their religious affiliations, race/ethnicity, occupational history, and whether the child is to assume a new name after the adoption.
The final step is a hearing before the court to confirm the information contained in the packet and for the parties to formally consent to the adoption. Please note that if the adoption involves a child 12 years or older, then the law requires that the child participate in the process and consent to the adoption. If the child is 12 years or older and will not consent to the adoption, then it cannot proceed.
Our attorneys are also available to help with complex adoptions, including second parent adoptions and adoptions involving an unknown birth parent. For LGBT individuals and couples, adoption is often an integral part of various methods of assisted reproductive technology. If you are considering growing your family through an adoption, please do not hesitate to contact one of the family law attorneys at Wolf, Baldwin & Associates, P.C..