When you are looking to adopt in Pennsylvania, you may be unsure of how to proceed. Adoption can be a complicated process, especially when you are unfamiliar with the overall procedures. The paperwork and discussions can be intimidating. There are a number of elements to the overall process that can be confusing without the help of an attorney.
What Is Adoption?
Adoption is directly defined as the act of taking something as one's own. In the realm of Family Law, adoption refers to the act of legally taking responsibility for another person as a parent. Pennsylvania does not have restrictions on who can be adopted, so both children and legal adults can be adopted. The process of doing so is handled through the courts. In general, there are two types of adoptions: open adoption and closed adoption.
An "open" adoption refers to an adoption where the child has the rights to get into contact with their birth parents. Generally, birth and adoptive parents will set forth the terms of an open adoption in a contract that is signed at the time of adoption. The consent of birth parents must be obtained for an open adoption. Terms including the age the child must attain to begin contact will usually be specified as well. Whether or not open adoption is right for you and your child depends on the nature of your case and the situations pertaining to it.
A closed adoption refers to an adoption where the birth parents do not consent to contact from the child. While contact is generally not agreed to, certain information may be held or requested by the adopting party. Information such as medical records may be retained for the purpose of tracking genetic disorders or diseases where family history is necessary to achieve a method of treatment.
Who Can Adopt?
Pennsylvania imposes very few restrictions on who is able to adopt a child. In most cases, anyone is able to adopt. In fact, Pennsylvania does not even have a residency requirement for its adoption process to take place. There is generally very little standing in the way of who may adopt based up on the status of the individual or individuals themselves. However, if a married couple wishes to adopt, in general, both must adopt. Also, unmarried couples are usually unable to adopt together, although, there are sometimes exceptions.
What Does The Adoption Process Look Like?
For the adoption process start, there is one basic step that must occur. In most cases, the birth parents of the child must first consent to an adoption. The exceptions to this typically include situations where the children are forcibly removed from the care of their parents due to some extreme circumstance, such as an extremely unsafe home, or unfitness of the parents to care for the child. In these cases, the court will terminate the parental rights of the birth parents.
Once a child is up for adoption, you will likely need to fill out an application with the particular adoption agency. From there you will likely need to follow the process of the adoption agency. This can involve meetings with agency officials, and possibly even the birth parents. You may also encounter a matching process to find a good fit for your home. The courts may not be involved until you are in the middle stages of the adoption agency's selection process. However, it is important to obtain the services of a Family Law attorney early on in the process to help secure your interests, and to assist you with the following steps of the adoption process:
Report Intention to Adopt
This is a filing with the court stating that you intend to adopt the child. Your attorney can assist you with this filing. The birth parents generally have about 30 days to rescind their decision, unless their parenthood has been terminated by the court for some reason.
Report of Intermediary
This filing occurs after the paternal rights have been terminated. The filing itself is typically just a record of fees paid by both birth and adoptive parents, and a declaration of a terminated parenthood.
Adoption agencies are required by state law to make "supervisory visits" to check in on the adoptive parents and report on the situation.
Petition for Adoption
The petition is filed by the adoptive parents, and can be filed by your attorney.
The adoption hearing is the final step in the process. The adoptive parents and the child must both attend, and depending on the child's age, they must consent to the adoption. Following this, you will receive your adoption decree and an amended birth certificate.
If you or a loved one is going through the adoption process, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.