Before an adoption can be finalized, the rights of the natural parent(s) must be terminated. Parental rights can be involuntarily terminated under certain circumstances. Parental rights can also be voluntarily relinquished via consent to the adoption. Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711, a consent must be signed by the following individuals where applicable: (1) the child(ren) being adopted if over 12 years of age; (2) the spouse of the adopting parent if that spouse is not also a petitioner; (3) the natural parent(s) of any minor child(ren) being adopted; (4) the guardian of an incapacitated child up for adoption; and (5) the guardian of a minor child or persons having custody when the adoptee has no parent whose consent is required. There are several timing rules that must be adhered to. First, the consent cannot be signed by a natural mother within 72 hours, or three days, after the birth of a child. A consent can be signed by a natural father at any time after he has been notified the child is expected to be born or has been born. Executed consents become irrevocable after 30 days. They can be revoked on the basis of fraud or duress within 60 days.
As far as other technical requirements, the consent must include the date, full address of place of execution, and be witnessed by two adults whose name, address and relationship to the person executing the consent are required. The consent should be notarized and the notary’s complete address should be included. Another practical tip is to be careful who you select as a witness. The persons witnessing the consents may be called upon in court to testify as to the circumstances under which the consent was executed. The court must be satisfied that there was no fraud or duress and the person executing the consent was of sound mind. Having the prospective adoptive parents as witnesses can lead to an inference of duress and relatives of the natural parents can be viewed as biased so it is preferable to use impartial and credible witnesses with no interest whatsoever in the outcome of the adoption.