Step-parent and Kinship Adoptions
In Pennsylvania adoptions are handled through the Orphan’s Court. The rules and procedures for an adoption can be found in the Orphan’s Court Rules under Rule 15. Each county may have a set of local rules pertaining to adoption which should also be reviewed and complied with where necessary. The primary, and in this instance the initial, requirement is the adoption petition. An adoption petition should include the name, age, residence history, marital status, other dependants, occupation, religion, race, relationship to adoptee, and state of health of all petitioners as well as the natural parents. The petition should also state the name, sex, race, age, date of birth, place of birth, religion, and residence history for the adoptee. Each adoptee requires a separate petition. The intended name of the adoptee following the adoption should be included as well. Consents of the natural parents and an original birth certificate of the adoptee should be attached as exhibits. Consent of the natural parents is not required if you are involuntarily terminating their rights. If that is the case you should indicate why involuntary termination is appropriate based on 23 Pa C.S. 2511(a) within the petition. An often used provision under 23 Pa. C.S. 2511 is that the natural parent has failed to perform parental duties or evidenced a settled purpose of relinquishing parental claim to the child for a period in excess of six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition.
The birth certificate to be attached to the petition should be a “complete” or “long-form” birth certificate that includes the full names and ages of the natural parents at the time of birth. You must specifically request a birth certificate with the parents’ ages or you will likely not receive the correct birth certificate. All prospective adoptive parents must submit to a criminal and child abuse background check in the context of the adoption. This must be completed before the petition is filed and also included as an exhibit. Once filed, the petition must be served on all interested parties to give proper notice as required under the law. This would entail either personal service or service by certified mail, return receipt requested, at least 10 days prior to the date set for a hearing. Certification of service must be filed with the court either before or at the time of the hearing. At the hearing, the Judge will make sure all the requirements under the law have been met and there is no objection by the natural parent(s) whose rights are being terminated. If so, the adoption can be granted.