1. Apply/arrange for home study if non-kinship adoption.

2. Order the Criminal and Child Abuse Checks through (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare.

3. Obtain Consent from natural parent(s) no sooner than 72 hours after birth of child. The consent form is specific and must be witnessed and notarized. Can be filed 30 days after execution.

4. Thirty Days after Placement: Adopting Parents file Report of Notice of Intent to Adopt.

5. Relinquishment Petition: Natural parent(s) may file a petition to relinquish rights thirty days after custody transferred. Consent(s) of the natural parent(s) should be attached.

6. Relinquishment Hearing: Informal, but natural parent(s) testify.

OR: Adoptive Parents may file a Petition to Confirm Consent if no Relinquishment Petition was filed within 40 days after Consent(s) signed. In this case, natural parent(s) not required at hearing, but need witnesses regarding execution of consent.

7. If no cooperation from natural parent(s), file Petition for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights. Must be able to prove termination is warranted based on one of the grounds listed in the statute. Termination hearing will be scheduled and natural parent(s) must be served.

8. Intermediary (Agency or Attorney) must file a report within 6 months after filing Intent to Adopt

9. Petition for Adoption: This is filed after all termination decrees are entered, Intermediary Report is filed, the home study is completed and the home study report is filed. Filing Fees applicable.

10. Adoption Hearing: Attended by Attorney and Adopting Parents, and Adoptee.

The process for adoption of an adult does not include many of the requirements present for adoption of a minor. Specifically, an adult adoption only requires a petition for adoption and consent of the adoptee and their spouse, if applicable. No background checks or home study is required. You also do not need to terminate the rights of the natural parent(s). One step that is more intensive than a minor adoption is potential name change. If looking to change your name as an adult pursuant to an adoption, you must also follow the steps for a civil name change.

You will need to submit a copy of your fingerprints with the adoption petition. Fingerprints can be obtained from your local police department. You will also need to supply record checks from the Prothonotary, Clerk of Court, and Recorder of Deeds for each county of residence for five (5) years prior to your filing. Finally, you will need to publish notice of your hearing date in a newspaper of general circulation as well as the Law Reporter regarding the proposed name change. Proof of the record checks and publication should be offered as evidence at the adoption hearing. Name changes are not permitted in the event of certain criminal convictions.

The adoptee may be appointed an attorney to represent their interests in the context of an adoption matter. Specifically, if a petition for involuntary termination of the natural parent(s)’ rights is pending. When presiding over a petition for involuntary termination, the court must consider the needs and welfare of the child(ren) involved. A major factor is the emotional bond between the parent and child and potential consequence of severing that bond. A parent’s representation of love and affection for a child without further corroboration, are not sufficient to prevent termination of their rights based on the best interests of the child.

The role of the attorney appointed for the adoptee(s) is to elicit and relay the position of the children involved. This method of expressing the children’s preference minimizes additional trauma that can result from actually participating in the litigation within the courtroom. The attorney may also weigh in as to whether the adoption proceeding would be in the child’s best interests and whether the benefit of adoption outweighs any harm from the termination. Other parties, such as social workers involved in the case, can also offer an opinion as to the welfare of the children and any possibility of irreparable harm in severing the parent-child relationship.

A standard adoption will require a home study to be completed by the local Children & Youth services agency or other approved social worker. This process can be expensive and takes a number of months to complete as several visits to your home will be required. The social worker completing the report would observe the home and ask certain questions of the prospective parents. A recommendation as to whether the home is suitable for a child and whether the parents should be permitted to adopt is included in the report. All of this information is submitted to the court in connection with your adoption petition. A Report of Intent to Adopt should be filed to get started with the home study process.

The requirement of a home study is waived in the event of an adoption of a stepchild, grandchild, brother, sister, niece or nephew by blood, marriage, or prior adoption. Now that Pennsylvania recognizes same-sex marriages, same-sex partners can also benefit from this provision. Adoption background checks are required for all adopting parent(s). Presently, there are three background checks required: (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. The social worker completing the home study will need to review and verify the results of these background checks as part of their report. If you are not required to complete the home study you would file the results of the background checks with the court when you file your adoption petition.

When deciding custody, the courts in most states use the “best interests of a child” measurement to determine division of custody and visitation rights. When the parents live a significant distance from each other, whether the custodial or non-custodial parent moves, “the best interests of a child” are again brought into the equation along with other relocation factors. Unless the parents are able to come to an agreement outside of court, the court may decide to permit the move or not, and can order new custody or visitation agreements. Different states have different laws, so it’s best to review the case with a legal counsel who is familiar with your state’s law.

When the custodial parent wants to move

In order for a custodial parent to move with a child, the parent needs permission from the other parent or court approval. If you leave without either, you risk being sanctioned, which could include fines or jail time.

Pennsylvania defines “relocation with children” as a move that “significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating party to exercise custodial rights.” Before moving, the custodial parent must notify the non-custodial parent in writing, sent by certified mail with return receipt requested, including certain specific information. The other parent has 30 days to respond. The legal details of the process can be quite complex, especially if the non-custodial parent objects.

It is best to come to an arrangement with the non-custodial parent, with both parents signing an agreement giving permission to move and renegotiating visitation. This agreement can then be submitted to the court. If you cannot come to an agreement, you will need to file a petition with the court requesting to move.

Once again, the court will weigh whether or not the move is “in the best interests of the child.” The court may decide that the move may improve the child’s situation enough to outweigh the disadvantages of having a non-custodial parent farther away. The court will then issue a new visitation order.

When the non-custodial parent wants to move

In Pennsylvania, relocation laws do not specifically cover the non-custodial parent, but that does not mean that a parent can move wherever he or she wants without concern for the law. When a non-custodial parent moves out of state, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) comes into play, keeping all custody decisions within one state and enforcing the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act, to ensure a non-custodial parent does not abscond with the children.

Additionally, if the non-custodial parent moves anywhere without notifying the custodial parent and the court, that parent risks various consequences: being found in contempt of court, paying the custodial parent’s legal fees, being charged with “parental neglect,” and losing parental rights.

Thus, it is crucial to go over your plans with the other parent well in advance of your move and, if necessary, file a modification of child visitation with the court.


Regardless of which parent is planning to move, having experienced counsel to help you through the process will limit the stress on both parents and help you come to an agreement that benefits the children and that the court will approve.

“Pro se” is Latin meaning “for oneself.” In divorce, it means not retaining legal counsel for any step of the divorce process: filing the paperwork to serve the other spouse divorce papers; negotiating a settlement of all assets, financial support, and custody; and finally, filing the final papers in court, including the Marital Settlement Agreement.

Pro se can be tempting, especially when a divorce is uncontested and seems amicable. It saves a lot of money in attorney fees. However, in the long run, it may cost you. There are many important reasons to retain counsel from an experienced divorce lawyer from the onset.

The most important reason is simply that the law is extensive, confusing, and time-consuming. Lawyers spend many years learning and developing experience so they can navigate the courts, the paperwork, the arguments, the research, and the proper legal terminology to provide you with the very best outcome for you and your children. You don’t know many of the loopholes and exceptions that could work against you, or the additional opportunities that might work in your favor.  Not knowing these things could cost you a bundle.

Additionally, a divorce may start out amicably, but emotions often run high and disagreements emerge when trying to reach settlement. Then the process ceases to be so agreeable. Often, if one partner has a stronger personality than the other, he or she can pressure or bully the other person into giving more than is actually fair. Having legal counsel makes this less likely to occur. And if one spouse suddenly decides to bring in a lawyer after the process has begun, the other ought to do so as well.

Other important reasons to retain legal counsel:

  • There is a significant disparity of income (e.g., one spouse is a homemaker)
  • One spouse has retirement plans that the other spouse would like to share
  • Issues of fraud, abuse, addiction, or narcissism are involved or are suspected
  • Children are involved

Divorce is a difficult process by its very nature. It’s our job to try to make it as easy as possible for you. Talk to us to see how we can help you navigate the divorce process with minimal stress on you and with maximum results.