After your adoption hearing, you can take steps to update your child’s name and/or birth certificate, where necessary. To obtain a new birth certificate you will need to submit a request through Vital Records in the state that issued the initial birth certificate. If outside of Pennsylvania, check with the local office regarding their specific requirements. For Pennsylvania birth certificates, a Certificate of Adoption is forwarded by the court to Vital Records to alert them the adoption was finalized. You would then contact Vital Records with a request for a new birth certificate and submit the applicable fee. Pennsylvania presently charges $20 for a new birth certificate, unless you are a military member, in which case the fee can be waived. The adoptive parents’ names and child’s name after adoption should be included in the application for birth certificate. The completed application, ID and payment would then go to Vital Records.

Processing times for receipt of the new birth certificate vary. The average time for adoptions is currently five (5) weeks. These steps are for a child born in Pennsylvania. For additional information on requesting a new birth certificate through Pennsylvania visit: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/certificates/Pages/Birth-Certificates.aspx

After receiving the new birth certificate and depending on the age of the child, you may also need to update records at school, the doctor’s office, Social Security, etc. You may need to present your certified Decree of Adoption from the court in addition to new birth certificate to verify legal name change. Additional certified copies of your adoption decree can be requested through the court at a nominal cost.

The rights of the other biological parent will need to be terminated in connection with any adoption. Their parental rights can be terminated voluntarily or involuntarily. With voluntary termination the other natural parent will sign a consent to the adoption which is subsequently attached to the Petition for Adoption. There must be at least thirty (30) days between when the consent is signed and when adoption petition is filed with the court since there is a thirty (30) day revocation period. With involuntary termination, you will plead the applicable grounds for involuntary termination within your adoption petition. A filing fee is payable to the county at the time you file your petition for adoption. After filing the Petition, you will receive notice of when you are scheduled for your hearing. You will need to notify any party that is required to receive notice of the hearing per the adoption statutes in advance of the hearing.

With a kinship adoption the prospective parents will need to have three background checks completed prior to filing an adoption petition. Presently, the required background checks for Pennsylvania include (1) Child Abuse History Clearance; (2) PA State Police Criminal Record Check; and (3) FBI Criminal Background Check through the Department of Welfare. The results of these background checks should be attached to the adoption petition. A home study is not required. A hearing will be scheduled by the court within a few months from filing the petition. If heading straight to adoption hearing because natural parents consent to adoption the total process can be completed in a few months. If an involuntary termination hearing is required before the adoption hearing the process can take twice as long.

In Pennsylvania any individual may be adopted regardless of their age or residence. Additionally, any individual may become an adopting parent. Consent of the adoptee is required in all instances where the adoptee is twelve years of age or older. The prospective parent(s) must obtain certain clearances whenever the adoptee is a minor. The adoptee does appear in court for the final adoption hearing. The Judge may have questions for the adoptee as to their relationship with prospective parent(s).

In a contested hearing where the adoptee is a minor, an attorney is appointed to represent their interests. If a name change is sought where the adoptee is an adult, the adoptee must submit a copy of their fingerprints with the adoption petition. Fingerprints can be obtained from your local police department. The adoptee will also need to obtain background 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, notice of the adoption hearing must be published 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.

If contemplating an adoption you can start the process by gathering the necessary paperwork that must be submitted to the court along with adoption petition. Exactly which documents you will need to include depend on what type of adoption you are seeking. All interested parties must be advised of the availability of ACT 101 and proof that all parties received information should be retained for presentation to the court. You will need to original birth certificate for the adoptee. Additionally, prospective parents and any other adult household members will need to have the requisite clearances completed where the adoptee is a minor and the results of those clearances should be attached to the petition. A home study may be required as well if there is no familial relationship between the adoptee and prospective parents.

In a situation where the adoptee is over twelve years old, you should also have the consent of the adoptee attached to your petition. If the natural parents consent to the adoption and are voluntarily terminating their parental rights, their consent(s) should be attached as well. In some circumstances parental rights do not need to be terminated. For example, if the natural parent has passed away you do not need to request their rights be terminated however you should include a certified copy of the death certificate with the petition. Another scenario may be if you have used an anonymous donor to conceive, that documentation should be included with your petition. You should consult with an experienced adoption attorney to be clear on exactly which documents you will need to include with your adoption petition to make the process as efficient as possible.  By April M. Townsend

It is possible to keep in touch with your child subsequent to the termination of your parental rights and their adoption if all parties to the action, i.e. natural parents/relatives and adoptive parents, mutually agree. Act 101, which became law in 2010, authorizes post-adoption contact by agreement of all the parties. Specifically, a birth relative by blood, marriage or adoption can contract with the new adoptive parents in terms of continued contact with the adoptee. In each adoption case, even if there is not any interest in post-adoption contact, all parties are required to be notified of the existence of Act 101 and option to enter a contract for continued contact. The parties should sign to acknowledge they received notice of the options available under Act 101 and their signed acknowledgment would then be filed with the court. If the parties do not sign an acknowledgement, then proof that they were served with the notice should be filed to the court. A sample of the Act 101 notice is included below.

      NOTICE REQUIRED BY ACT 101 of 2010

23 Pa. C.S. §2731-2742

 

This is to inform you of an important option that may be available to you under Pennsylvania law. Act 101 of 2010 allows for an enforceable voluntary agreement for continuing contact or communication following an adoption between an adoptive parent, a child, a birth parent and/or birth relative of the child, if all parties agree and voluntary agreement is approved by the Court. The agreement must be signed and approved by the Court to be legally binding.

A birth relative is defined only as a parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, uncle or aunt for the child’s birth family, whether the relationship is by blood, marriage or adoption.

This voluntary agreement may allow you to have continuing contact or communication, including, but not limited to:

Letters and/or emails

Photos and/or videos

Telephone calls and/or text messages; or

Supervised or unsupervised visits.

If you are interested in learning more about this option for a voluntary agreement, you contact your attorney.

By April M. Townsend

Adoption will establish all the legal rights, duties and responsibilities as exist for natural born children between the adoptee and the prospective parent(s). Those rights and duties include, but are not limited to, the right of the child to inherit through you and your family, the legal obligation to financially support the child, the right of the child to seek support from you, the principle that these rights and duties would continue if you and your spouse separate or divorce as well as if the child develops any physical, psychological problems or becomes ill or disabled for any reason in the future.

At the final adoption hearing, your attorney and/or the Judge will confirm whether you understand the legal consequence of finalizing the adoption matter. A final adoption decree is issued following a successful hearing. Subsequent to receipt of the decree and barring any legal appeal, adoption is permanent and cannot be undone. Parties may elect to add the child to their health insurance or other benefits once the adoption is finalized and they can provide proof of their legally recognized parent-child relationship. The birth certificate for the child can also be updated at this time.  By April M. Townsend

There are two options to place a child for adoption. The first option is to surrender the child to the appropriate agency. This can include the county social services agency or private adoption agency. Under 23 Pa C.S. 2501, written notice of intent to give custody of the child to the agency should be presented to the agency. The natural parents should also cooperate in petitioning the court for permission to voluntarily relinquish their parental rights to the child. The agency must consent to accept custody of the child. To the extent the natural parents are under 18, the consent of their parent(s) is not required.

Natural parents may also elect to surrender the child to an individual. The individual(s) accepting custody of the child will need to file a report of intent to adopt as well as sign a consent accepting custody of the child. They will also need to follow the other procedures for adoption which include getting necessary clearances as well as getting a home study, where applicable. Again, the natural parents should cooperate in petitioning the court for voluntary relinquishment of their parental rights. Alternatively, if the natural parents are consenting to the adoption, a petition for confirmation of consent can be filed instead. The court will schedule a hearing following receipt of petition for voluntary relinquishment or confirmation of consent. Notice of the hearing date must be served on natural parents as well as their parent(s) if they are still minors at the time. The natural parents should appear at the hearing. The court may enter a final decree of termination of parental rights after the hearing.  By April M. Townsend

A foreign adoption decree is a decree issued from another country regarding adoption that took place abroad. If you have adopted a child from abroad, you can take steps to register that foreign adoption here in the United States. Pennsylvania discusses the applicable steps in 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2908. The adoptive parents can file a properly authenticated copy of the foreign adoption decree along with copy of child’s via and birth certificate in the county where the adoptive parents reside. The adoption decree should be translated into English where applicable. If there is no birth certificate or other birth record for the adoptee, the parents may submit an affidavit instead.

The court is to supply a foreign adoption registration form for adoptive parents to use. The form should include information on how to obtain an adoption decree from the Commonwealth. Where the court is satisfied that a full and final foreign adoption was completed, they would enter the decree on the docket and issue a certificate of adoption to the parents. If the court is not satisfied that a full and final adoption took place, instructions regarding re-adoption are to be provided to the parents. All records submitted to the court to register a foreign adoption are maintained by the court and sealed. Filing fees may be assessed by the county for this procedure.  By April M. Townsend

 

If you have adopted a child from abroad, there are several steps to take to finalize the adoption domestically. A re-adoption being filed in the United States can serve a few purposes. It can allow for an adoption decree that is in English. It can be required for immigration purposes. It may also be helpful for effectuating a name change of the child if not already completed.

The procedure for re-adoption in Bucks County is similar to domestic adoptions. It begins by filing a Report of Intent to Adopt. There is only one post-placement visit required that is usually completed by the agency the parties worked with for the foreign adoption. Once report is completed, petition for adoption can be filed. Copies of all the foreign documents (ex. Birth certificate, decree of guardianship, adoption decree) shall be translated if necessary, certified, and presented to the court for adoption hearing.

An alternative to refiling for adoption is to have a foreign decree of adoption registered with a local court. For this option the parents would file a certified copy of the foreign adoption decree with the court. It should be noted that no English language adoption decree will be issued, and the other issues addressed above will not be automatically resolved. A Pennsylvania birth certificate can be acquired through registration of a foreign adoption if at least one of the parents signs a statement regarding their US citizenship and PA residency. This allows the local court to register the foreign adoption with the Division of Vital Records as well.  By April M. Townsend

Pursuant to 23 Pa. C.S. Section 2711(a), 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. Subsection (c) discusses specific time limitations as to when a consent can be signed however these time limitations are directed towards the natural mothers. A consent cannot be executed by a birth mother within seventy-two (72) hours of the birth.

A putative father can consent at any time after receiving notice of expected or actual birth of the child. A putative father is one whose legal relationship with the child has not been established but suspects he is the father born to a woman that he is not married to at the time of the child’s birth. A putative father is distinguishable from a birth father whose legal relationship with the child is established due to marriage to birth mother. A birth father would also need to wait a minimum of seventy-two (72) hours before executing a consent for it to be valid. Consent may be executed outside of Pennsylvania and still recognized here if executed in accordance with the law in the location where it was signed. The consent is irrevocable thirty (30) days after signature absent proof of fraud or duress.