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Understanding stepparent adoptions in Pennsylvania

The most common adoption is adoption of a stepchild. This allows the stepparent to become a legal parent to his or her spouse's child. Once such an adoption takes place, the non-custodial parent has no responsibilities for or rights to the child. This includes child support.

State laws and processes can vary regarding stepparent adoptions. The process is often easier for a stepparent than it is for a couple to adopt a child. Most states require that a criminal background and home study are completed. In Pennsylvania, the county the family resides in will determine the rules regarding stepparent adoptions.

In order for a stepparent to adopt a child, both parents must consent. However, there are some caveats to this. For example, this would not be required if the non-custodial parent has abandoned the child. Some states require the child's consent if he or she is deemed old enough. The minimum age for this usually falls between 10 and 14.

In order for the adoption to take place, an adoption petition must be presented to the appropriate court. Some of the things the stepparent will need to find out is if an attorney is required, where you can locate the forms needed and where to submit the forms.

The stepparent will need to attend the preliminary hearing. The judge will likely have questions for everyone in the family. If the judge is satisfied with the answers and is ready to allow the adoption to proceed, a date will be set for the final adoption hearing. An adoption order is issued and means the stepparent is not legally the child's parent. A new birth certificate can then be obtained showing the stepparent listed as the child's mother or father.

If you want to adopt your stepchild, a Philadelphia attorney can provide more information on the specific process and rules that govern stepparent adoptions in Philadelphia Country. He or she can make the process easier, and may be able to avoid the problems that often arise.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Stepparent Adoption," accessed Nov. 18, 2016

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